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5 Steps to Build Trust and Stronger Teams

Dr. Pari Namazie

17 Dec 2018 | Organizations & Leadership

I recently had the great pleasure to work with a multi-cultural, diverse and talented management team. They are the inspiration for this article.

When I am briefed on a future facilitation, many of the pain points I hear are the same:
“This team does not function,”
“the local team will not speak up,”
“there are many cultural misunderstandings which seem to have turned into prejudices,”
“the team does not work together,”
“they constantly blame one another,”
“there are many strong, dominating personalities and voices in the team,”
“management styles are very different,”
“there is no respect,”
“people work in silos,”
“no one is accountable,” and on and on the list goes. Many times, there is a sense that a facilitated management workshop or intervention is needed, but there is strong disbelief as to what it would accomplish.

We spend days, weeks, months and years together, and we don’t know anything about one another.

When I meet a new team, I read the expressions on participants’ faces. Some are curious, some listening intently, some disinterested, and some waiting to pounce on me, to prove my every word wrong. It is always the same in every setting: you will have a group who believes and a group who does not. As a facilitator, I find humility in holding space, respecting all voices, giving them space to be heard, acknowledged and recognized. That for me is the first step to building trust. It starts with respect.

I also take time creating space and spend a good amount of time breaking ice and sharing stories to put participants in a different setting, and ask them to share something about themselves. I can see reactions relax as they hear that their managers and their colleagues are fathers, mothers, friends, siblings, sportsmen/women, amateur chefs, world travelers, the list goes on. Sharing personal stories unites us. Above all else, we are human beings, we love, we cry, we find things that make us happy, we find things that make us sad, we are touched by kindness. When we work together, so often we forget to share these stories of life and humanity, and instead, our daily stories are check lists of priorities, deadlines and deliverables. We spend days, weeks, months and years together and we don’t know anything about one another. So, I spend a lot of time to open the space, to remind people, they are human beings, they have so much in common. To find the stories to share together, for me, is the glue of a good team and the second step in building trust: unity.

When I feel this space is created, I tackle the harder issues head on. Like an onion, we start peeling back each layer. Sometimes, I discover there were not only misunderstandings, but pain. If it helps the team, I give them space to discuss and work through each issue systematically, to release the pain, bandage the wounds and finally allow healing to take place. This is the part where it gets personal, where it can be uncomfortable and painful, but necessary and very relevant. It releases tension, but also builds the ground for a feedback culture to be developed and fostered. This is where we hear and actively listen, where we engage objectivity, where we might recommend solutions and strategies for better cooperation and mutual understanding. This is the third step to building trust: dialogue.

Once we have succeeded in building the grounds for mutual understanding and dialogue, I move the team forward to clarify their vision. What is our purpose? Our why? Where do we see ourselves? What kind of team do we want to be? What are our values? What is the best that can happen? I love this part. It is fun and creative. Here, there is energy, passion, hope, excitement. This is my fourth step to building trust in teams: setting vision.

And then of course, vision does not work without target setting or accountability. This is where we pull it all together and create a road map of how to get there. Who is responsible? By when? How do we measure it? How do we know if we were successful? And so, my final step in building trust in teams is: accountability.

Each one of these steps requires a great deal of skill. As a facilitator you have to read the group, be intuitive, yet also structured, know where to explore and where to pull back. You need to be aware of the team dynamics but also the voice of each individual, to acknowledge the energy highs but also lows of the group, and most importantly, to allow a safe space for discussion, reflection and reconciliation.

And when we get to the end of the program, it has been a long journey, but a rewarding one. On the one hand, I see pride and a strong sense of accomplishment on participants’ faces, that we did so much, that today we are a stronger team than we were yesterday, that there is a future and a vision ahead of us. But there is also the realization that the real work will now begin, there is yet a long journey ahead, but this time, the path is clear and I know where it leads me.

As for me, the facilitator, I feel such a sense of gratitude when I reach the end of a program. I believe there is a great reservoir of hidden energy and passion within each of us, just waiting to be identified and released. Somehow, I feel we manage to tap into this during the space of our program. It fills me with great joy to see participants come together, to share, discover, learn and do. I have not yet worked with a team who has not come out of our program feeling stronger, more united, more energized and more motivated.

I am in awe and inspired with the passion, drive and commitment of each and every team I have worked with. I dedicate this article to these people, who have taught me so much and made me as a facilitator and a human being so much richer.

Thank you. 

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Dr. Pari Namazie | Managing Partner

Pari is a coach, consultant and facilitator and has over 25 years of experience as an intercultural, HR and organizational improvement consultant to multinational and international companies. 
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Dr. Pari Namazie

Pari is a coach, consultant and facilitator and has over 25 years of experience as an intercultural, HR and organizational improvement consultant to multinational and international companies. Read more

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