Once trust is lost, it is very difficult to re-establish, particularly if team members have experienced several setbacks. Leaders have a tough road ahead, but one that must be traveled if they want to experience increased productivity and employee engagement. The following recommendations can facilitate the process of rebuilding team trust.
WARNING! You only get one chance to rebuild trust. Before embarking on any of these strategies, be certain you are able and willing to follow through on any commitments made. If you use these techniques and fail to fulfill your promises, you are in worse shape than if you had done nothing!
Here are several suggestions to help leaders put the shattered pieces of a broken team back together:
- Facilitate a “Clear the Decks” Team Dialogue, involving all team members, respected representatives from higher-level management and a neutral facilitator. Include the following elements in the agenda for this session:
Past History (Acknowledging what has happened in the past — and agreement to ‘let it go’. This should be fairly brief, and is designed to set the stage for the meeting.)
Keepers/Releasers Activity (Looking at the past, identifying what was good that the team wants to keep, and what was not good that team wants to release.) [I suggest some symbolic activity of team and management together releasing the items on the list, such as a bowl burning, a burial, etc. If there are items on the list that cannot definitively be released, reach agreement on how the team will deal with them.]
Trust Me! Activity (Defining the specific characteristics that make up a trusting environment. Focus on behaviors that are observable and measurable. Together the team can think back to relationships they experienced which involved high trust, and brainstorm the descriptive behaviors that created that environment.)
Optional Trust Building activity (such as a blind trust walk; fishbowl information sharing; spider web; or other type of experiential activity requiring trust.)
Team Challenge (Defining a specific goal for this team as they move toward rebuilding trust together, focusing on a quick hit approach. Include a time goal, and agree on a celebration for success.)
Commitments (Opportunity for team to clarify expectations from their “executive sponsors” and vice versa. Reach clear agreement on expectations, and capture commitments on chart paper. A ceremonial signing by everyone in the meeting is a powerful closing.)
- Provide specific training to the team, giving them tools to be more effective in their assignment. This should include skills in establishing a Code of Conduct; clarifying roles and expectations; creating a shared vision for success; running effective team meetings; problem solving and decision making as a team; evaluating team effectiveness; and making presentations to executive sponsors.
- Conduct periodic critiques with the team to determine progress
- Provide a mechanism for regular communication between you and the team. Encourage the team to constantly answer the question: What do you need from me to ensure success? Be responsive to their comments, and demonstrate results.
- Invest your time to be present for your team. Walk around informally, and make time to chat with your team members when nothing is “on the line.”
- Schedule Huddle Meetings on a regular basis, to ensure everyone is “in the loop” and has an opportunity to ask questions for clarity or express a need.
- Look for opportunities to celebrate success! It does not need to be on a big scale. Recognizing small successes contributes to the “halo effect” and keeps team spirit high. Advertise the team’s success to the rest of the organization as a model for other teams.
- Be sure you are always a good model for the trust and credibility you want to see in your team.
It is not what you say, or wish, or hope or intend, it is only what you do that counts. (Brian Tracy)