Let’s call it Trust Building, not Team Building

Let’s call it Trust Building, not Team Building

When I say team building, how many of you roll your eyes or audibly groan? It is a common response. I once had a leader refuse to participate. His displeasure included the statement, “I have done a ton of these and they are a waste of time.” I used to get mad and secretly dreaded the response after I introduced our next team building activity. I have grown to appreciate the transparency, which has allowed me to step back from the situation and ask the question, “What can I do as a facilitator to set up this team building time so it is a productive conversation for all involved?”

I see my role as a facilitator to create the conditions in which teams can have a productive conversation. Recently, I received an answer to the above question which challenged me to make team building time productive and inclusive.

As part of my strategic planning process (Entrepreneurial Operating System®), we spend 2-3 hours on team health during annual planning. We start with a conversation centered on the pyramid from Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni. We end with time for team members to share some information about themselves and give/receive feedback on observed strengths as well as one thing they could do differently to increase the effectiveness and health of the team. (Here is the form I use.) We frame all the activities that the teams do together as trust building time focused on team health.

My answer came during the wrap-up, when leaders offered feedback by answering the question: “What was the highlight for me?” The answer that created a sacred moment for me was, “Every year I look forward to that exercise and the feedback that I receive from it.”

Imagine, an activity where we receive feedback and love it!

As I wrapped it up, the thought hit me that I call the time together trust building time focused on team health, not team building.  A simple change in name paved the way for an amazing experience for leaders who had done similar activities dozens of times in their careers. 

What if you became more intentional about trust building time focused on building team health? It could be as simple as creating time at your next planning session. What if you provided a list to the team titled Trust Building Activities and included things like a meal together, taking an assessment as a team, meeting regularly as a team, or a ninety-minute escape from work for a little fun? If all agree team health is important, make it a priority to do something monthly from the list.

Based on my experience, eye rolls go away and even the often-cynical 50+ year old white male dives in.

Team health:  Let’s call it what it’s intended to be and challenge people to own their part of it by diving in and helping to build and maintain it. Words matter, and the response I see from leaders is proof that a simple change creates conditions where all engage.

Lead well.

Some next steps:

  1. Email me at scott@thetrugroup.com if you want a list of team health exercises
  2. Watch my Johari Window video for some trust building tips you can do daily with your team