You can’t buy trust — you have to earn it

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Most of the time when leaders invite me to facilitate their strategic retreats, the first thing to do is to encourage self-discovery, break the boundaries to create team cohesion. To achieve this quickly, we do a simple exercise called the ‘trust game.’

In 2019, I was invited to facilitate a strategy retreat for the Board and EXCO. The CEO had earlier briefed me about one of the challenges the company was facing; poor board relationship due to trust issues.  As part of the retreat, the CEO asked me to help deepen bonding and trust among members for team cohesion.

At the start of the retreat, I asked the members to get a partner and try out the trust game. This was before the Coronavirus pandemic, and it was swift. The trust game requires a pair of people where one partner puts his hands tight on the chest, closes his eyes and falls back into the hands of the other colleague. Many variations of this game exist, the focus is one person puts his life in the hands of the team. Do you have my back? Or does the team have your back?

[Source: Internet photo]

Many people do not keep their hands on their chests. They feel the other person might not be minding you. Do you remember Arsenal’s first goal against Manchester United on 2nd December 2021, at Old Trafford? All the players knew the goalkeeper is looking at the ball as the game is being played since rule number #1 in goalkeeping is to keep the eyes on the ball. Unfortunately, the ball went past the goalkeeper. He was in pain lying on the ground facing into the goal post. It is a rare occurrence. Unfortunately, for the team, the referee could not see the goalkeeper lying down in pain, and by the time the whistle went out, the goal was already in! When in doubt, follow the rules. And the goal was given based on that rule. The team trusted the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper trusted the referee. But the who let the Man U team down.  The trust game helps to recognize trust gaps. Many people do not keep their hands on the chest. That is a bad sign.

Once we discover such discomfort situations, we try to explore how much does each person on the team understand their colleague or colleagues. How do you go deeper to know who your colleague is, where they were born, what is their weakness, worries, strength, aspiration, career ambitions, and those things they have to achieve when they come to work?

If you have 10-15 leaders in a room, and each person knows this kind of information, they have a common ground for a strong relationship and trust. They understand each other and so are comfortable opening up. They begin trusting each other. You can not trust somebody whom you do not know.

As a new leader at any organization, the first step is to understand the context. Know the people you are working with. Appreciate who they are. Give them roles and structures that create strong bonding and relationship to grow trust. That way, you will win as a team.

Need to facilitate your team on a strategy retreat, contact Summit Consulting Ltd. We not only help you craft a winning strategy but give you tools and techniques to rediscover your colleagues, deepen trust and work better as a team not individuals in a group.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr Strategy 2021. All rights reserved.

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