We recently worked with a 15-member executive team, all reporting to the CEO of their company. Five of the team members have P&L responsibility for separate business units that compete for market share and the same clients. The rest of the team members have functional responsibilities like HR, Finance, Marketing, and IT. And add to the mix that 2 members joined recently due to acquisition.

When I met with the team, they were doing their best to satisfy the CEO, yet when they carried out some initial team development activities it became clear that they were communicating on a very superficial level. They were “putting on a good show” but were holding back.

In order to support them, we needed to identify what was preventing progress.

Given the complicated internal business relationships of the members of this executive team, our hypothesis was that a possible factor impeding their high performance could be related to the levels of trust in the group. According to Michelle and Dennis Reina, prominent researchers on the topic of trust, there are 3 required components to enable a group or team to improve trust:

  • A foundational understanding of trust and its importance on teams.
  • An understanding of the behaviors that build trusting relationships and how team members practice those behaviors with one another.
  • Tools to measure and monitor trust-building efforts.

The Reinas offer a wonderfully straightforward 360-degree feedback tool that helps leaders figure out how to establish and build trust — and outlines how to repair it when it’s broken. They focus on 3 elements, which I call “handles,” that let team leaders and members get a grip on trust: Character, Communication, and Capability. This is how they explain their toolset:

  • Trust of Character sets the tone and direction of teamwork. This dimension represents mutually serving intentions and is the starting point of a team relationship. When teams have it, each member has faith that the others will behave as expected. Team members care about one another as people and hold each other’s best interest in mind. This is the foundational dimension of trustworthiness that teams need in order to be effective. Team members build this level when they do what they say they will do, engendering a mutual view of reliability and trust within the team. Any member who can’t deliver steps up, renegotiates the task, and is supported.
  • Trust of Communication fuels collaboration and makes it safe for team members to talk with each other directly — not only to provide information to one another but also to work through issues and concerns and offer feedback in the spirit of deeper learning and growth. Through Trust of Communication, teams practice transparency — they communicate openly and honestly. Members feel safe to admit mistakes and know where they stand with one another. This creates an environment of collaboration that teams need to thrive.
  • Trust of Capability opens the door for team members to contribute and to use their knowledge to make a difference. Members build it by leveraging the skills and abilities of one another, seeking each other’s input, engaging in decision making, and teaching new skills. Trust of Capability enables the innovation that teams need to be competitive.1

The beauty of this simple model is the way it empowers leaders to identify concrete ways that they can develop trust in their teams. In our Leading Teams for Impact program, the participants receive the Reina Trust 360 report.

With solid feedback about the 3 categories — character, communication, and capability — that they receive from their boss, peers, and team members, participants are able to develop action plans that help them increase trust with their teams.

In addition to the work we are doing in Leading Teams for Impact, several executive teams have decided to deploy this 360-degree assessment so they can build trusting relationships more competently in their organizations.

Build greater trust on your team with our Leading Teams for Impact program.

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