Major League Baseball owners who group players together without much forethought can’t expect to magically field a winning team.
Strong teams, both in American ballparks and the workplace, also are built on a foundation of trust, according to Antoine Gerschel, co-founder of Teams of Distinction and the former director of global leadership development and e-learning for Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceutical.
In the big leagues, clear communication between pitcher and catcher is indispensable for dealing effectively with hitters. Hand signals delivered by the catcher indicate whether the pitcher should bring some heat with a fastball, or use a more deceptive strategy via curveball, slider or changeup.
“No matter what, a substantial amount of trust must underlie this relationship,” Gerschel says.
In the workplace, Gerschel says a lack of trust among team members primarily leads to inefficiency and dysfunction. For example, maybe one team member doubts another's ability to understand a task, and the doubter ends up trying to compensate without even discussing things first.
“Trust requires honest communication and learning not to second-guess others,” Gerschel explains. “When a team is equipped with trust, people are willing to go above and beyond to reach goals. And that willingness and trust building largely depends on upon smooth, easy and effective communication.”
What Is Trust?
Gerschel says most people know trust when we see it, but it's tough to define. For him, trust mainly is built on the belief that a person is knowledgeable, honest and has honorable intentions. It develops, he says, when people interact with each other and are pleased with the results, whether those results are friendship or completion of a work task on time and with excellence.
“A relationship between team members may begin based on assignment or reference, but real trust is earned when each party is happy with the quality of the others' decisions and when team members believe the team is acting in everyone's best interests,” Gerschel says.
Leaders who inspire trust get better results
There possibly once was a time when leaders could be confident their position automatically made people compliant with their demands, but the workplace isn't like that anymore, according to Gerschel. People want leaders to earn their trust today. For one thing, leaders who inspire trust tend to be skilled at trusting themselves, and are less likely to micromanage their team. And when a leader demonstrates trustworthiness, he or she follows clear values and principles that make sense for the employer, rather than following egocentric motives that are only self-beneficial.
Lack of trust can be disastrous
On the flip side, astute HR leaders know the absence of trust in the workplace more often than not will turn toxic. It is in these group settings where suspicion, backstabbing and jockeying for position triumph over getting actual productive work done.
“A leader who doesn't trust team members tends not to be trusted by them either,” Gerscheil says. “Plus, non-trusting leaders are prone to micromanaging and generally treating team members like children, rather than professionals.” The result is a group that spends as much time watching their backs as they do accomplishing goals, a total waste of resources.
Trust helps employers retain top talent
When employees worry that a leader's actions will negatively affect the business, they're less engaged and more likely to respond to a job opening elsewhere. Furthermore, leaders that have the reputation of being untrustworthy have a harder time attracting the top talent they need to beat the competition.
“That star analyst or engineer you want to hire isn't going to be interested if it's clear that trust among team members and between teams and leaders is shaky,” Gerschel says.
When the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays kick off the MLB playoffs tonight, successful team building will be on full display, as neither of those clubs would have gotten to the post-season — baseball’s success barometer — without strong trust among team members and between team members and leadership.
“Great teams are about far more than hitting the numbers and beating deadlines, but about doing together what would not be possible for individuals or randomly grouped people,” Gerschel says. ”Teams can’t operate within silos, because the best workplace teams operate with complete candor and visibility.”