How Important is Trust in a Team?

The estimated reading time for this post is 3 minutes

Trust is a powerful component in unleashing the power of teams. Why? Because “Teams that lack trust waste inordinate amounts of time and energy managing their behaviors and interactions within a group.” Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (follow on twitter@patricklencioni)  This means that instead of genuinely working together to reach their goals, they use up valuable energy hiding their weaknesses, and putting on facades for the sake of politics and appearance.

Over the break, I read the book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, by Patrick Lencioni. He uses a pyramid to illustrate the 5 components necessary for a cohesive team.  At the bottom of the pyramid, holding all of the other key functions of a team in place, is trust.  It is the foundation for which all other 4 factors were possible– productive conflict, commitment, accountability, and results.  While there could be debate around the other 4 essential components that make up a team, the one that rings true for me the most is trust.

So today, as we welcome a new team member to the department, I find myself thinking more about how people on a team come to trust each other.  I know that for me, a large part of coming to trust my teammates has had to do with the F.I.N.D. protocol we do that allows a space for us to express emotion, process insights, and ideas that come through common experiences together.  Although expressing emotion is sometimes rarely found in the workplace, it is normally a fundamental way that we build relationships and understand one another.

We did a F.I.N.D. twice today, once in the office, debriefing the afternoon with our new teammate Brad, and again after we met for the first time with our curriculum writing and design team at Century High School.  Both times, I learned things about my teammates that I may have never known otherwise. I felt more connected as a result of the process and I also felt heard. The F.I.N.D.  is usually a debrief that takes place at the end of an experience.  Similar relationship building protocols can be done in the beginning of a meeting together, like the “Personal Histories Exercise”, mentioned in the “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”,where team members answer questions about themselves.


We did something like this at the Century meeting today to get to know each other.  It was the first time we met all together, and two of the teachers would be sharing their work with the group.  Because sharing work can be vulnerable, I was glad we began the meeting by doing a quick whip-around where each teacher gave a highlight of their vacation (we just came away from a 3 week vacation) and something that they are looking forward to in the next 6 months.  There were stories of families, trips, and books read, among other things.  Lencioni cautions against the idea of these practices as “soft” explaining that they help cultivate relationships and ultimately more trust among the members of the group.


In “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” Lencioni states “Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible.” I am interested to continue to explore this essential, often ignored idea of trust and how it is developed and maintained in the teams we all belong to.


One thought on “How Important is Trust in a Team?

  • Brad Swan
    January 18, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    I was blown away at how quickly we were able to establish rapport and mutual trust on this team! One really encouraging part for me was that this trust was created intentionally; it was the result of the F.I.N.D. protocols (and others) we explored together, and the courage of my new colleagues to share their “truths” with me. The big takeaway for me was that trust doesn’t manifest without personal risk–I’m now seeing trust as an exchange of vulnerability (and an implied agreement not to take advantage of each other’s “soft spots”). One has to be willing to share truths about oneself that could open one up to criticism, scorn, being viewed as weird, or about which one might not be especially “proud.” This is SCARY, but worth it.


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