Build Team Trust… Fast.

 

Build team trust… fast.

    How to encourage people to do what they say they’re going to do.

 

Trust is weaved into almost every aspect of our lives. I trusted that my car would get me to the airport this morning, that the pilots and crew would get me to Washington D.C., and that my cab driver would find my hotel. This all comes so naturally. So why does the role of trust in collaboration inside organizations remain such a mystery?

For more than 150 years, organizations have been organized in silos that breed internal competition for resources. The psychology of competing with your teammates for resources, in turn, encouraged an insidious way of working:  passive-aggressive behaviors where humans work side-by-side but work subtly against each other even though they are employed by the same firm.

 

Trust anchors every successful collaborative team.

We researched at Cisco the most important factors in creating trust on collaboration teams, and the single most important factor is revealing:  do people do what they say they are going to do?

As leaders, it is up to us to be overtly aggressive at vanquishing passive-aggressive behaviors and building real, human trust.  We have no choice in our hyper-connected world where change is constant and work is increasingly global, mobile and virtual. As distance and time condense, it stresses out the calmest of us as we scramble to meet deadlines while working with people that likely we’ve never met.

So what’s the key to building team trust?

“Replace uncertainty with clarity. Articulate the team’s purpose and
establish up front what you expect from each member.”

The Collaboration Imperative

 

How to build a team charter

A team charter helps clarify a team’s purpose, role, shared goals and scope; a charter eliminates ambiguity of expectations. As leaders, we can make a team charter the focal point around which the team builds healthy collaboration habits.

It’s possible to move beyond your gut feel and hope trust develops on your team; it is possible to operationalize it. Trust is too important to, well, just trust that it’ll happen. To that end, we’ve found that a team charter is most effective when it is composed of five elements:

 

  1. 1. Team purpose:  describes specific challenges, opportunities or tasks the team will address (and also expectations).

  1. 2. Team role:  teams form for different reasons.  Know why your team exists – is it to align a group around an initiative?  Is it to execute a priority together?  What are the different roles of individuals on the team? Read more about various team roles in Chapter 5 of “The Collaboration Imperative.”

  1. 3. Shared goals:  most collaborative teams have people from different backgrounds, functions and even companies. Make sure despite your differences, you’re all chasing the same goals. These goals allow you to create a specific definition of what success looks like and allow you to map your goals to performance management.

  1. 4. Scope:  establish well-defined boundaries of what you hope to do. These “guardrails” allow you to say no to ‘scope creep’! This helps members determine their time commitment and helps the team as a whole stay on track.

    1. 5. Establish ground rules. Put ground rules in place for team procedures and processes (including meeting logistics), how you use your time together, who makes final decisions, how to resolve conflict, and how respect and courtesy are paramount.

 

A team charter is a powerful means to enable trust-building on your collaboration teams. Keep in mind that a team charter should be paired with a common vocabulary. Sweat the details of your team’s vocabulary. Ask if everyone on the team has the same definitions in their heads for the vocabulary you are using to articulate the charter. Don’t let the definition of a word be the reason trust is derailed!

The management science is pretty clear here: teams that trust each other outperform teams that don’t. Are you outperforming?

Discover Your Collaboration Persona: How do you “show up” in an increasingly visual, mobile, social and virtual world?

 

I was lucky enough to meet GE CEO Jeff Immelt at a Cisco event some years ago and interview him on the topic of leadership.  My biggest takeaway from listening to him:  leadership is about how you “show up.”  In other words, it’s how we act and behave in everyday situations that define our leadership persona.  I’m pretty sure he meant it literally, as in how we “show up” in the physical world.

But how do we “show up” as leaders in a world where work is increasingly done on a mobile phone or tablet, or using a video chat, web conference or Telepresence?  This is one of the great leadership challenges of this hyper-connected world: as a leader you will need to know what I like to call your “Collaboration Persona” – that way in which your leadership style shows up when you’re not in the physical world.

How should you approach building your Collaboration Persona?  Here are three steps:

1)      Know yourself:  Whether it is in the physical world or virtual, how we show up should authentically represent who we are.  Click here to take a quick online assessment to discover your authentic communication style (Click on the green “Take Survey” button). This confidential assessment is a bit like the Myers-Briggs test and provides you with a customized profile of your unique communication style; it reveals how you naturally process information, and how you prefer to deliver that information to others. Most importantly, the assessment provides a simple vocabulary to communicate your style to others. Are you conceptual or analytical?  An introvert or an extrovert?

My co-author Carl and I cover this extensively in Chapter 3 of The Collaboration Imperative, entitled “Get Real about Communications.”

2)      Know where you excel as a “Virtual Star”: Just as you play to your strengths in the real world, play to your strengths in the virtual world.  Here are some examples:

  • If you are a conceptual thinker, you will excel when the team needs someone to explain the aspirations of a decision, such as a vision. These thinkers will be good on video presentations during virtual meetings. It’s not that conceptual people aren’t good in online discussion forums where the medium calls for more precise language; it’s more about playing to the strength of conceptual thinkers – they love talking about ideas and tapping into that passion on video is a great way to play to one’s strengths.

 

  • If you are an analytical thinker, you will excel at “making it real” when communicating a decision to your team.  These thinkers are outstanding in virtual mediums where precision communicates best – such as online question and answer sessions and discussion forums.  Again, it’s not that analytical thinkers aren’t outstanding on video, where the communication is sometimes more free-flow; it’s that online Q&A and discussions forums play to the strong logical nature of analytical thinkers – they love communicating the steps taken, the process used, and the supporting facts of a decision.

 

3)      Get out there and practice on your medium:  When you align your communication style to these new forms of communication, you’ll find it easy to participate in the increasingly virtual, mobile, social and visual work environment that your teams leverage to get better, more productive results every day. You can’t underestimate how your team will appreciate your unique efforts at participation in the world they live in.

Follow me on Twitter: @RonRicciCisco

Authenticity Creates Trust; Trust Accelerates Collaboration

Collaboration is indeed the business opportunity of the decade, promising to energize your organization while making more effective use of your precious assets.  My Cisco colleague Carl Wiese and I wrote The Collaboration Imperative to help organizations “operationalize” collaboration and capture these gains. Our goal wasn’t to write a “theory” book, but rather one that drills down into specific actions, with concrete examples of how to put collaboration to work in the real world.

As Carl noted in a previous post, effective collaboration is a function of aligning culture, process and technology.  But how do you do that?   Here is a one example from that’s featured in Chapter Three of the book: Collaborative teams work best when they’re made up of people who communicate openly. Collaboration technologies, especially video, make it easy to reach people across an organization and around the world.  Anyone who has traded their economy-class airline seat in favor of a Telepresence meeting knows the powerful benefits of collapsing space and time with an engaging video meeting.  However, as we cross departmental, cultural and time-zone boundaries, collaboration puts our personal communication skills to the test.

As we increasingly interact virtually, we work more and more with people we don’t know or have a long history with; they may actually work in a different company and teams may come and go in rapid succession.  Establishing rapport – quickly – is one of the most important aspects of successful collaboration, and it starts with communicating authentically.

Do you know what your authentic communication style is?  Do your peers and colleagues know how you make decisions?  Can you quickly convey your strengths and weaknesses to people?  The more you share about your authentic style with your collaboration partners, the faster you can achieve trust with them.  Open communications starts with you.

Here is how to get started.  Click here to take a quick online assessment to discover your authentic communication style (Once on the page, click on the green “Take Survey” button”). This confidential assessment is a bit like the Myers-Briggs test and provides you with a customized profile of your unique communication style; it reveals how you naturally process information, and how you prefer to deliver that information to others.

Most importantly, the assessment provides a simple vocabulary to communicate your style to others. Are you conceptual or analytical?  An introvert or an extrovert? Do you prefer to communicate information in a linear or nonlinear fashion?  Complete this quick assessment to find out. Then ask your team to take the same assessment and start sharing your styles.

You’ll be happily surprised at how much friction can be removed from human relationships, especially virtual ones, when we simply share our authentic style with colleagues and begin understanding each other better. I’m convinced that 90% of human conflict in business isn’t personal in intent; it occurs because we all naturally make decisions differently. By sharing our authentic style of communicating and making decisions, you can diffuse a lot of unnecessary friction and built trust faster.

My authentic communication style is:  Conceptual, Deductive, Introverted and Non-Linear.  I’m best at brainstorming. I come to conclusions quickly. I gain energy by thinking on my own, and I can be unpredictable in where I take ideas.  Who are you?

Chapter Three of The Collaboration Imperative delves deeply into the this topic — I look forward to your feedback after reading it.