Executive Exchange Insights: How Does a Management Team Develop Trust?

Workplace trust comes from the work & being useful to the team. Not from sharing deep secrets from your past.

Working with an executive management team, I was caught off guard by a dinner discussion around trust. The manager Manuel shared an experience he had during his days on a sports team, the team sitting in a circle sharing moments of profound impact in their lives. Each person sharing painful stories about abuse, death, and pain he said “It was like each story was more open and more painful than the last. This sharing deep impact creates trust in a work team” Another manager, Sharon said out loud, “That’s BS. A bunch of men in a room trying to outdo each other with horror stories doesn’t create trust. Getting your work done and being sufficiently competent builds trust.”  The discussion continued over bottles of red wine into the night.

I agree with Sharon’s stance on workplace trust.

Trust flows from knowing why this team exists, why these people, plus you are on the team.

My concern with the spill your guts, sharing deep secrets method:

  • Lacks a clear connection to the work that has to get done
  • Creates stereotype bias. He acts that way because his father was an alcoholic and left the family when he was 8
  • In western cultures, the stories create an escalation competition. Each person wants a more heartbreaking story
  • Even if you and I share heartbreaking stories work still has to get done. If I do not complete a task on time and you have to pick up my work … you have lost trust in my ability
  • It makes managers and co-workers into psychologists
  • Few organizations or managers can deal with the trauma that comes from having to be re-victimized by sharing that trauma with a room full of people whom you need to see and work with on a daily basis

ee-michael-cardus-01How does an executive management team develop trust?

  1. Shared understanding of why this team is together
  2. Shared understanding of where this team is going and the boundaries of the team work
  3. Shared understanding of why each person is on this team at this time
  4. Each team member shares how the team can support them to achieve their personal goals
  5. The team creates a communication process to let the team know when each member feels overloaded or dissonance with the team. Overload can happen from too many work projects or just too much for the person to handle at that time. Dissonance can occur from the person losing focus or the team making changes that may not support the individual’s personal goals
  6. When a team member starts to feel bored or burned-out from work, they have the chance to talk and find a way to recommit to the team’s

It may not sound as sweet as, we sat in a room and cried … I trust these people. However, workplace trust comes from workplace results and systems-that-drive useful behaviors.


Michael Cardus is the principal consultant of Team Building & Leadership www.create-learning.com

Mike believes that people want to do their best work and that systems-drive-behavior. Improve the systems, and unleash the capacity of people to do great work and love what they do.