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Trust = Respect? – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

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From the Post: Respect = Trust or Trust = Respect, or What?

You now have a team to lead or you discover that there is a trust problem with your team. You could be a new leader for the team and your staff doesn’t trust you yet. If you are known for being a trusted and respected person, your work will be slightly easier. You could be a new leader of a team where no one trusts each other and they don’t care who you are. No matter what the situation, when you want to build or develop trust in a team you can take this same approach. Here are four steps to help.

I suggest you do this together as a team because, in the end, you will need a consensus from everyone on the team. 

Step one

Do what you did for yourself. Have everyone on the team think of people they trust and write down those characteristics. Have your team members do this step independently of each other. This is where you will see many different responses and many of them may be different from your list because everyone has had a unique experience when it comes to trust. 

Then have each person explain why they chose those specific characteristics. This is a chance for you to find out what you don’t know about each person on your team. It also helps you to start building trust by working towards understanding their viewpoints, fears, and concerns.

Step two

Have everyone pick the top three or four characteristics that are most important to them from their list. You need to write down all of the important characteristics on a whiteboard, or on a document where everyone can see the list if you are doing this virtually. You could have quite a list going but don’t worry.

Step three

Highlight the top six to eight common characteristics on the list. These are characteristics that keep showing up on everyone’s lists. Let’s say this is the team’s list of their top trust responses:

  • They respect my opinions
  • They ask for my ideas
  • They are a person of their word
  • They have my back
  • They are accountable to their word
  • I have never heard them speak ill of others 
  • When I talk to them they listen to understand
  • They are authentic, they are who they are
  • They are always available to help

This is where consensus-based decision-making comes in. You ask the team if we all practiced these behaviors can we begin to build trust? Everyone needs to agree, this is not a voting exercise. If there are a few holdouts, you need to ask them to tell you more about their concerns and what would have to be added to the list so they would agree. Again, you are practicing building trust as a leader, you are listening to their opinions and viewpoints.

Step four

This could be the hardest step. I have discovered by doing this with teams that it is important to try to reduce the list to four or five behaviors that everyone can agree on. It’s okay to add one or two more behaviors if that’s what it takes for a consensus agreement. This makes it easier for you as a leader to make trust and respect happen. You can tell the team that behavior is an action that is specific, observable, and repeatable. This way you can tell for sure everyone is practicing these four important behaviors. It will also tell you if there are areas where everyone needs to do some work. 

Again, consensus needs to happen, this is not a vote. Let’s say these are the four behaviors, you will notice there are some edits and that’s okay to do.

  • Everyone respects each other’s opinions and ideas
  • Everyone is a person of their word, they keep their promises
  • We have each other’s back, we are accountable for our work and we don’t throw each other under the bus
  • No one speaks ill of others (no gossiping) 

Ask the team if all four of these behaviors are specific, observable, and repeatable. If they agree you now become responsible for demonstrating these behaviors as a leader, even if they are different from your own ideas about trust or respect. This is about the team, not just you, and everyone needs to be accountable to themselves and each other to demonstrate these behaviors. 

As a team, you need to all agree on how to hold each other accountable. If you have a healthy space for dialogue, you can talk about it. If you notice something going sideways, and there is an opportunity to improve, never start the dialogue with ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they, or ‘them’, it always should be ‘we’. I have observed an area where we can improve. The team agreed on these behaviors, the team worked together on these behaviors. This will take time and is well worth it.


Word of advice. When doing this try to keep the teams small. I have done this with groups of four up to 16 people. The more people, the longer it takes to get to a consensus. 

Being a trusted and respected leader takes work and deliberate practice not only for yourself but also for your team. As with most leadership skills, this takes time, patience, and work. This is part of being a life-long leader. The development of skills never reaches a point where everything runs automatically. As soon as you think you know it all… you will be tested again.

Another benefit for you and the team is this list can become the values of the team environment and could improve the culture of the team as well. 

Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.

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