3 point strategy for creating trust
Aug 26, 2017

In an earlier post, I had discussed how absence of trust between Anil Kumble, the former coach of the Indian cricket team, and Virat Kohli, the captain, led to their parting of ways to the detriment of the whole team. Today we talk about a strategy that a coach or a leader can adopt to create trust in relationships with the captain or other team members. In my opinion, the three crucial elements of this strategy are attitude of caring, listening to and being empathic with the team members.

Charles Feltman, in his book titled “The Thin Book of Trust”, describes the four elements for building trust as follows:

  • Being sincere. You mean what you say and say and do what you mean, by aligning words with actions. You always walk the talk and thus can be taken seriously and believed.
  • Being reliable, which means that you deliver on your commitments. When a request is made, you seek clarity, check your ability to comply and then make the commitment – else you decline the request.
  • Being competent. This will imply that you have the skill sets to do what you propose to do. When you do not know something, you openly admit so and seek help and support.
  • Being caring. When you are caring, you have the interests of the other person in mind. You find out about their interests and communicate what your mutual interests are.

In his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, Patrick Lencioni writes that absence of trust is one of the key elements that causes breakdown in the functioning of a team.  He suggests that building trust takes place through one’s willingness to be open and vulnerable with the other team members and thereby encourage them to open up as well and be trusting with you.

While I agree with the above perspectives, in my view the tipping point lies elsewhere. I believe that the three items above, of being sincere, reliable and competent are absolute musts as matters of hygiene for building trust, and without even one of these, there is no question of being trustworthy.

I also accept the point mentioned by Lencioni  – if you expose yourself (no pun intended), others in the team will be willing to expose themselves too. But doesn’t this sound more like a trick, like using the body language act of making an open palm gesture which, I am told, helps to build trust.

In my view, the three pivotal issues in creating trust are the following.

  1. Be a good listener. Listen with full attention to your team members and without judgment. Good listening can often, by itself, be inspirational to the person being listened to.
  2. Be empathic. Empathic leaders have the ability, and more importantly the willingness, to sense the feeling of others and their perspectives. This quality can be developed by being curious about the feelings and thinking of the other person and listening to them with attention. Widening the circle of compassion and treating the team members as part of the family, can enhance emotional empathy of the leader.
  3. Be caring. This is the most critical element for building trust. If you are not perceived as caring, you will never be trusted.

Are we, as team leaders, being genuinely caring, truly empathic and intentional listeners in our relationships with the other members of the team? Will the new coach of the Indian cricket team follow this simple three point strategy?


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