Building Trust Within a Team

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  • 0:26 Building Trust
  • 1:20 Personal Histories Exercise
  • 3:00 Personal Styles Activity
  • 4:15 Personal Style Framework
  • 6:19 Team Norms
  • 8:18 Moving Forward
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Svitlana Kostenko
Amir, Jakob, Lina, and Gabrielle have just been put on a new team together, the Blue Widgets team. They've worked together here and there, but never as closely as they're going to for at least the next quarter. They're excited about the new team and looking forward to getting to know one another. And they know that one of the very first things that they'll have to do is build trust - from the ground up.

Building Trust

While it might not immediately seem like an obvious top priority, trust is the foundation of teamwork. For the new team to perform well, Amir, Jakob, Lina, and Gabrielle will have to learn to trust each other. And it just so happens that trust is all about vulnerability, which can be difficult for people - especially in a work setting. For that reason - and others - building trust takes time, but luckily for the Blue Widgets team, the process can be accelerated. The key ingredient is courage: the courage to admit mistakes, acknowledge weaknesses, and ask for help.

And, of course, the process will be ongoing. Sure, the Blue Widgets team is brand new, but even the Red Widgets team, which has been together for over a year, can work on trust. Because trust on a team is never complete; it must be nurtured over time. The key is that everyone actively participates.

Personal Histories Exercise

In order to kickstart the trust-building process, Jakob, the Blue Widgets team's lead, invites the team to a training. As the first exercise, he asks Amir, Lina, and Gabrielle to share three things which each other: where they grew up, how many children there were in their families, as well as where they were in the birth order, and what was the most difficult or important challenge of their childhoods. He tells the team that this shouldn't take any more than ten minutes.

The team is hesitant to admit it, but they're a little nervous to get started. So Jakob goes first. He tells the team about growing up in Denmark as the youngest child in a family of four. He talks about immigrating to America at 12 years old and the unique challenges it presented.

After Jakob's turn, the rest of the team eases up a little. They find it easier to share their own experiences. Amir talks about his parents' divorce, Lina shares how much she was affected by the death of her grandmother, and Gabrielle admits that moving away from her friends in 3rd grade was an important social obstacle for her as an only child. They are just ten minutes into Jakob's meeting, but the Blue Widgets team is already finding themselves more comfortable opening up to one another.

Think about your own upbringing.

  • What was your family structure like?
  • What did you excel at?
  • What did you struggle with?
  • How might these things have impacted your personality - and your work style?

Personal Styles Activity

At this point in the training, Jakob retrieves and shuffles a deck of cards, each with a different descriptor on it. The words include things like ''powerful,'' ''animated,'' and ''diligent.'' One by one, Jakob has each person draw a card from the deck, read the descriptor, and ask themselves, ''which person on the team does this adjective best describe and why?'' He starts with Lina, who has been at the company the longest. Once Lina has identified a person for the descriptor, she places the card if front of that person and explains her rationale. They will then proceed around the table clockwise, until each participant has 3 or 4 cards in front of them.

The team isn't so sure about this activity, as they really don't feel that they know each other all that well yet. Jakob tells them not to overthink it. ''If the card doesn't match anybody on the team,'' Jakob says, ''it's okay to discard it.''

As they begin, the Blue Widgets team realizes that the activity is easier than they expected. They all seem to agree that Amir is patient, supportive, and trusting, Lina is challenging, candid, and adventurous, Jakob is enthusiastic, lively, and motivating, and Gabrielle is logical, thorough, and consistent.

Personal Style Framework

After the cards have been doled out, Jakob explains that the activity isn't quite over yet. He explains that one way to think about their personal style is using the following framework, which looks at how assertive and expressive an individual happens to be - and in what combination.

Personal Style

Jakob asks the team to flip over their cards. They notice that on the back of each card is a symbol - a triangle, square, circle, and parallelogram. Coincidentally - or not so coincidentally - Amir has mostly circles, Lina mostly triangles, Jakob has parallelograms, and Gabrielle squares.

Jakob then shows the team the following image:

Personal Style Framework

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