Five ways to build team trust

Do the folks on your leadership team trust each other? Are you sure?

Patrick Lencioni, in his phenomenally best-selling business fable, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, offers a leadership model that we at Padraig truly believe in. It’s a model we share with, and develop within, our client organizations and we get phenomenal feedback about it.

team_pyramidLencioni’s model uses a five-level pyramid with each level resting on the foundation provided by the levels below it. The ground level foundation, the level on which everything else sits, is Trust. It’s followed by Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results.

Lencioni’s book tells the tale of a company that struggles with each. In other words, the five dysfunctions are the absence of trust, the absence of conflict, etc.


One of the big takeaways when we talk about trust with most teams, is the distinction between “predictive trust” which is what most of think of as trust, and “vulnerability based trust” as Lencioni calls it.

Predictive Trust is having the trust or confidence that a co-worker or team member will behave the way you expect they will – they won’t break generally accepted laws, norms, policies. This is the kind of trust you give to others, knowing that they won’t steal your computer if you leave it in the office or that they won’t deliberately corrupt the network hard drive.

It’s the same type of trust that we extend to each other when driving. We “trust” people know the rules of the road, will stay on their side of the line, will stop at red lights.

Belonging to a team typically gives you this type of trust and granted, without that basic level of predictive trust, you would have enormous problems. The thing is, many of us assume that’s the level of trust we need to be successful – but it isn’t nearly enough.

We need the vulnerability-based trust that Lencioni speaks about: a much deeper confidence that you can be vulnerable with teammates. The belief that you can do things like raise concerns or disagreements, ask for help, admit mistakes and hold others accountable without fear of retaliation, humiliation, or resentment.

Vulnerability based trust is trusting your team with your success. Trusting them with your career. Trusting them to have your back, all the time.

You can trust that others, when they do all of the above, have the best interests of the team and the organization at heart, and they can trust that you do too.

This type of trust for many people takes time, and it has to be earned and given.

So, how do you build vulnerability-based trust?

How to Build Team Trust

There are a lot of great leadership books that talk about trust and we incorporate them into our Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team leadership program. Some of my favorites are:

Go First and Be Vulnerable

As a leader, it is your job to model the behaviors you want to see on your team. In Trust Works! Ken Blanchard says, “When you open up and share about yourself, you demonstrate a vulnerability that engenders trust.”

Listen to Understand

One of my favorite quotes is from Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” where he says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to respond.”

That’s why we encourage you to listen with the intent to understand. It’s not a competition; you have to be willing to stop thinking about winning the conversation and open up to considering someone else’s ideas and concerns.

Spend Time Together

It sounds ridiculously simple but often when we work with teams who struggle with trust, the number one thing we hear is, “Things are busy and we try to limit how much time we spend in meetings. I guess it’s tough to trust someone when you don’t spend time with them.”

So find some time to spend time together.

Work on a Project Together

Again, this may sound simplistic but often when we work with teams who struggle with trust, we hear, “We all have our own areas of responsibility and so we don’t rely that much on each other.”

And yet, when we bring the team together and talk about something they all share (perhaps, how to manage poor employees, how to motivate, encourage and keep good employees, how to manage budgets in tough times, how to deal with difficult clients, etc.) they find they have a lot in common.

When you get people working together, they find a common interest and start eagerly sharing and learning from each other.

Get to know each other above and beyond work

How well do you know your teammates? When is the last time you had coffee, lunch or a trip together that wasn’t focused solely on shoptalk?

As part of our leadership workshops we have participants do a “vulnerability” exercise. No, I’m not talking trust falls or other fads, but rather, telling each other just a tiny bit about themselves and what makes them tick.

It’s pretty low risk, reasonably comfortable for most people, and yet even this exercise often leads to “I had no idea you were interested in….” or “I think I better understand now why you ….”

In many cases, the team decides they need to make time to do more of this at the start of their meetings.

Sometimes they decide they need a couple more occasions where team members get away together – to work through business problems but also to have an evening together – having dinner, talking and getting to know each other the night before or night after a workshop or brainstorming session.

Whichever method you choose, please remember – trust is an ongoing goal. Each step above will help build the right kind of trust but none are a one-shot deal to be left behind when you move on.

Click here to download your cheat sheet: How to build the right kind of trust

To hear Patrick Lencioni on Trust, click the video:

Coach’s Questions

How can you build vulnerability based trust on your team? Which of our ideas would help? What’s holding you back from going first?

Have you had success with other trust-building ideas? Share them with us below.

Click here to download your cheat sheet: How to build the right kind of trust


The one leadership habit you can’t live without

You’ve probably heard it before – maybe even from your Padraig coach. Perhaps you’ve read it online or in a leadership book – keeping a journal helps you be a better leader.

I know, for many of us, that falls into the “yah, but” category. “Yah, I’m sure it’s useful for some but I can’t find time,” or “I forget to do it,” or “it seems unhelpful,” or the classic, “I don’t know what to write.”

We’ve been there; we struggle with it too.

But, we also know it works – we see it with our clients all the time.

So, what’s all the hype about? What can you achieve with journaling?

1. Process previous events.


What happens to you is not as important as the meaning you assign to what happens to you. As you write about things you’ve experienced, you have an opportunity to see them in a different light and choose the position that they remain in your permanent memory.

2. Clarify your thinking.

Writing helps us sort out our thoughts. Because your journal is private, you can really wrestle through the issues. When we wrestle entirely in our minds, we tend to often go in circles but when we’ve written something down, there’s a record of where we’ve been – and that often gets us to clarity, more easily.

3. Understand the context.


Leaders need to see the forest and the trees. Life is darned busy, few of us have opportunity to notice the forest. Journalling will slow you down, if even for a few moments and will let you reflect. With a few moments of journaling, you give yourself permission to think bigger and explore new topics.

4. Notice your feelings.

You’ve heard us talk about it a lot- good leaders are self aware, great leaders are emotionally intelligent. They recognize their reactions to things and they know what prompted that reaction – and they do all that in the moment. How? By learning to be aware by looking back on the day, each day, and noting how they were feeling and why.

5. Record progress.

Sometimes we don’t realize the overall progress we’re making because we’re so focused on the day-to-day challenges, obstacles and small wins. Journaling can help you see how it all fits into a bigger picture and lets you choose your direction.It also helps you build momentum as you reflect on all the things you have accomplished as opposed to what could be better (often, our default position)

6. Learn the important lessons.

Writing things down helps us learn. Especially writing long hand on paper. I write down what I learn, so I don’t have to keep relearning it, and I write down what I want to learn.  That link between learning, and writing is summed up nicely in this article on MentalFloss.

7. Ask yourself important questions.

If you’ve worked with one of our coaches, you know they ask insightful, provocative questions that start you thinking in new ways and that leads to spectacular gains. Simply put — a journal can help you self-coach.

So how do you start?

  • Get a great journal
  • Choose a consistent place and time of day to write
  • Aim for 15 minutes, but start with whatever you can muster – 3 minutes is great. Just do it and it will become a welcome habit.
  • Until it becomes a habit, put it in your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, put a post-it note on the bathroom mirror – remind yourself as often as it takes.
  • Don’t censor, don’t edit. You’re not going to show this to anyone – it doesn’t have to be neat and tidy, it doesn’t have to well written or grammatically correct. It doesn’t have to make sense right away.
  • Be present – I know, that sounds “coach-y” — it just means when you’re sitting there to write, be aware of your thoughts and jot them down.  Try not to focus on what you have to do next — if your mind is going there, don’t beat yourself up, just let it go and come back to the journal in front of you.
  • Ask yourself questions like:
    • How was I feeling today? Why did I feel that way?
    • What were the great moments — how was I feeling?  What were the lousy moments — how was I feeling?
    • How am I spending my time? How do I want to be spending my time? What’s stopping me?
    • What’s getting my attention? What needs my attention? What should get my highest quality attention?
    • What did I achieve today?
    • What am I grateful for?

You’ve got this.

Coach’s Questions

What might you finally achieve with a daily few moments of journaling? Would that success be worth a few moments a day?

How knowing your WHY can make 2017 your best year yet

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

– Simon Sinek

Figuring out what motivates people has been at the centre of leadership talk for as long as I can remember.

It used to be simple.

People were motivated by food, shelter, and clothing. But, life has changed and motivating people has become an art and skill on its own.

Some people are motivated by money, recognition, fame, freedom, authority, creative freedom and the list goes on. When you understand what motivates someone, you understand WHY they’re working and what they’re working so hard to accomplish.

Simon Sinek brought this conversation to the forefront with his internet-famous Tedx Talk: How great leaders inspire action.

In Sinek’s talk he refers to the idea that we all know what we do, some of us know how we do, but those who know why we do what we do are most closely aligned with our purpose. And, through that alignment we can better connect with, motivate, and inspire others.

Meet Steve

One of our fantastic clients is an executive with one of the largest insurance firms in the USA. Steve began his career as an insurance agent. When we began working together he was in his early 30s, a relatively new partner of the firm with a two year goal of becoming Managing Partner of one of the company’s regional offices.  

Becoming a Managing Partner would require Steve to accomplish many things.

He had to motivate, inspire and drive a diverse group of agents to accomplish great feats of sales without being able to actually sell anything himself.

He had to continue to recruit new talent and, of course, he had to stay connected and engaged in the corporate network, not to mention meeting ongoing expectations from his Managing Partner and senior leaders, on top of passing a bunch of regulatory exams.

There was no doubt that Steve is a smart and capable and one of those folks who is a natural leader with a keen interest in others. And yet, we knew what got him here wouldn’t necessarily be enough to get him where he wanted to go. As we explored what was needed, we discovered he had his “why” without ever having really articulated it.  

Steve’s Why

You see, when Steve was a junior in college his much loved Dad passed away – a devastating blow that obviously rocked his family. While he, his sister, and Mom struggled to cope with the terrible loss, it turned out one thing they wouldn’t have to worry about was money.

His Dad had had sufficient life insurance to take care of his family should anything ever happen. Where others might have had to drop out of college and support a parent, he was able to continue. His Dad had talked to him about the insurance and how important it was to have and so this had become a driving force for him.

He was determined to help families be protected from the devastating financial blow that can follow on top of the loss of a family member. While he was “just selling insurance” he was actually driven by a bigger force, a bigger goal than just making money or selling policies. Steve wanted to protect people so they had bright futures.

Once he was able to bring his “why” out into the open and he was able to see this is what he had been trying to accomplish — he was able to own it.

He was able to use it to propel him.

Steve shared his story with his team of agents, highlighting the importance of their work. He was more motivated than ever to become a Managing Partner. Not because he wanted to be “the boss” nor because of the bump in salary but in fact, he knew that by becoming a Managing Partner would have wider reach to lead a larger team and protect even more families.   

Keeping that “why” in the forefront while we coached through the victories and challenges of leading a diverse team, meeting consumers expectations, delivering goals for his boss, Steve achieved his goal of becoming Managing Partner with this massive, hugely successful company. And, only 21 months after we started working together — beating his already ambitious goal by three months.

Knowing your why not only helps you to feel more connected to your purpose on the planet, and it helps others to connect with it, get behind it, and stand in solidarity with it.

We, above all else, want to know and understand each other and identifying your “why”can bring you closer to your goals than any “how” or “what” ever could — and it might just help your team too.

Coach’s Questions

What is your “why?”  What is your organization’s “why?”  Are they aligned? What can you do right now to make both of those as clear as possible for yourself and your team??

If you’d like some help, by working with one of our coaches, click here to schedule a complimentary introduction.