. . . the definition of trust, in terms of a superior performing organization, is complete vulnerability.

What Every Successful Organization Does

By Tom Welch

What a mess I had on my hands one Friday morning a few years back. Little did I know, in the main meeting room of that historical yacht club, that the contentious atmosphere would turn into an extraordinary lesson that just might help you improve the most critical aspect of your business.

The president of a mid-sized computer company had asked me to spend a day with the 14 members of his compliance and contracts group. Why? Because he believed that they were dysfunctional, distrusted and conveniently avoided by other functions of the business.

It didn’t take long for the barbs and blame to start flying across the room that morning. Nor did it take long for me to discover that, not only was this leader and her team distrusted by other employees, there was also a distinct lack of trust among the individuals in the room.

Keep in mind that the definition of trust, in terms of a superior performing organization, is complete vulnerability. It is confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good so there is no reason to be protective around the group.

Believe me, there was little or no vulnerability whatsoever in that room. How did I know?

I knew because teams that lack trust exhibit predictable behaviors. In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni lists a number of them. He says that members of teams with an absence of trust. . .

All highly non-productive behavior in terms of team effectiveness. It is only when team members are comfortable being exposed to one another that they begin to act without concern for protecting themselves. They can then focus their enthusiasm on collaboration, innovation, productivity and success rather than politics or self-interest.

It’s hard to increase the level of trust but it’s what every successful organization does. It is a process that happens over time, not a transformation that takes place after a meeting. But you have to begin!

As the leader, you have to demonstrate vulnerability yourself. You also need to create an environment that does not punish the vulnerability of others. Specifically a genuine culture of openness, respect and cooperation.

Mike Abrashoft was the Navy Captain of the USS Benford. He took that ship from one of the worst in the Navy to the absolute best. How? In his book, It’s Your Ship, he explains his tactics. First and foremost, Captain Abrashoft created trust in his leadership and then exhibited trust to his crew.

He listened to each individual intently. When one of his people offered a viable suggestion, he announced it on the ship’s public address system and implemented it immediately. He went beyond standard procedure and built a relationship with each of his sailors.

Another way to build trust was revealed in a recent survey by Leadership IQ. When asked for ways that gain a worker’s trust, the issue that respondents ranked highest was feeling comfortable bringing work-related bad news or problems to their immediate boss and knowing that he or she would respond constructively. Basically that means you don’t try to find blame. Rather, you help with ideas to fix the problem.

Other tactics you can incorporate include being vulnerable yourself, creating a culture for others to be open and honest, listening to and caring about your people, creating relationships and acting constructively when you get bad news. All of those suggestions are things you can begin to do now to increase the trust in your organization. And, trust me, the payoff is big.

Oh…and the lesson from the cantankerous group at the yacht club. That painful day was the beginning of trust repair. After three additional day-long sessions, the team left with a new direction, revived spirits and a collaborative enthusiasm that turned contagious. Today, they are the best performing team in that company.

It all begins with trust.

@Column-credit: Tom Welch, America’s Career Coach, is a leadership and peak performance expert. He is an executive coach to global leaders who want to accelerate business results. Tom helps people and organizations excel. Contact Tom at twelch@ricsearch.com or visit www.ricsearch.com

The preceding article originally appeared on tcpalm.com.

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