This morning was the same as every other morning in their 12-year marriage. Fred sat at the breakfast table sipping his coffee and reading the news on his iPad. His wife, Helen, sat opposite him, staring out the window. Then, suddenly, this morning was different.
Helen turned her gaze to her husband and asked, "Fred, do you love me?"
"Of course I do," Fred responded without lifting his eyes from his reading.
Several moments passed. Helen waited for more. Finally Fred added, "I told you on our wedding day that I love you. If that ever changes, I'll let you know."
Yikes! Can you imagine being in a relationship with that guy? Do you think Helen trusts that Fred really loves her?
And yet, the relationships between most team members are exactly like that. A great (or even a good) marriage relationship won't be produced by communicating your love for your spouse once a year on your anniversary. And great team relationships don't result from an annual team building session.
So how do you build trust?
Trust occurs when you put yourself in a vulnerable position and your teammates catch you. Trust falls (which I don't recommend) are a physical example of this emotional process.
The kind of trust required for a great team can't be built in one annual event. Building high-trust, high-performance teams requires a regular rhythm of investment and communication. Team building should be on the agenda every week.
Here's a simple idea to get you started.
Begin each team meeting with a team building question. There are plenty of good resources out there for this type of thing, but don't be satisfied with simple ice-breakers. Dig deeper to help team members connect. The question should help people deepen their understanding of one another and grow in their willingness to be open with each other.
"What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?" is a moderately interesting question. "What career would you pursue if you could do anything except what you're doing now and why?" is a question that reveals a team member's passions and values. Answering it helps others get to know them and requires a deeper level of vulnerability which builds trust.
Make sure you, as the leader, answer the question first. Your willingness to be vulnerable and model trust will encourage team members to do the same.
Have a different team member bring a question to each meeting. This will help each person invest in the process and ensure that the power dynamic stays as even as possible.
Try it for six weeks. You may be surprised at the results you can achieve in such a small amount of time. I'd love to know how it goes.