For the last several Leading Edge columns, I have focused on Marcus Buckingham’s latest book: “Love + Work.” After participating in a series of Webinars on the book sponsored by Harvard Business Review (HBR), I had the opportunity to interview Buckingham for my podcast, Becoming a Sage.
Much has been written about the power of teams, but Buckingham is quick to point out that teams don’t add much value without trust. In his May-June 2022 HBR article, Buckingham notes: Participants were asked “in a global survey if they trusted their teammates, their team leader, and their senior leaders. Those who strongly agreed that they trusted people in two of the three categories were three times as likely as others to be fully engaged and highly resilient. Those who strongly agreed that they trusted all three were 15 times as likely to be fully engaged and 42 times as likely to be highly resilient.”
BUILDING TEAMS OF TRUST
In building teams of trust, remember that leadership is not a position or title. It is a relationship, and trust is reciprocal. If you trust, then you are more likely to be trusted. We also tend to trust people we know. So it starts with taking the time to get to know people.
Buckingham feels we should “check in” with teammates rather than “check on” them. He says the point of the relationship is “to make the person bigger, not better by fixing them.” Checking in is not about giving feedback or evaluating the person. It is about paying attention and making them feel “seen.”
The best way to do this is by asking open-ended questions:
- What’s working?
- What’s not working?
- How can I support you?
- How can I best help?
LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER
Buckingham says that “learning is a team sport” in that we learn from each other. During a check-in, both people can share challenges and what can be done to overcome them or discuss solutions. Making regular check-ins part of a ritual builds relationships of trust.
Pre-COVID-19, many workplaces were designed with a focus on productivity and profit—often to the detriment of people. Buckingham sees “employees as the integrating point for all other stakeholders, rather than as merely one of many… People are the point.”
The pandemic has given leaders an opportunity to redesign work in ways that build teams of trust by putting people first.