Unpacking Trust

How to Accelerate Trust in Your Team




There have been times when we were called in to work with a group of people who were put together to do something very special or very difficult. Some organizations call them “Tiger Teams”, “Swat Teams’ or some code name for the special project. 

The challenge we see: It is fairly common for some of the players to have heard of their “teammates” but they really don’t know each other. The best case scenario is that they have heard something good about someone. The worst case is that they have heard something negative about someone and that is their only point of reference. 

The opportunity we see: We’re allowed to get creative with the trust traits and wheels to help people get to know each other in meaningful ways quickly. Accelerating trust is important but does not have to be serious, heavy or dull!

Here are some of the applications we have seen work:


Each team member writes a 25 word or less descriptive statement, story or biography that gives others a sense of who they are as related to the ten trust traits. Start with one trait, have each person share their writing one by one. Then go on to the next trait. When folks have finished this exercise, we have seen some teams take a deep breath and simply say, “Alright, let’s get going!” For your team, getting going may look like getting a clear and aligned picture of the goal, setting up ground rules for effective communication, visioning, etc. We do see an acceleration, a shift forward, when people take the time to get to know each other in the context of trust.


One effective way to organize this is to have each person state why they believe they were chosen to be on this project team, then have each teammate choose from the ten traits and share what they believe this team can trust and truly count on them for. Each person can take a few questions from others. We suggest keeping all questions in the seeking to understand mode.


Have each member go to the person who appointed or placed them on the team and ask this person to send them into the first meeting with a written statement about why they were selected and what they trust about them. The members of the team then share the statement they were given to the rest of the group. This illuminates to the team what management trusts about each team member. It helps to give the manager, boss, etc. a copy of the trust wheels and the definitions of the ten traits. Being consistent with the traits and definitions makes it easier for the team to accelerate. We have seen a couple of great side benefits. The first is that you may get acknowledged by the person who placed you on the team! The second is that the use of the trust wheels and traits with your superior may open the door for you to have a trust conversation. 

Whatever works for you 

We’ve even heard interest in one organization to build the trust wheels like a carnival game: Spin the wheel and respond to whatever trait the wheel stops on.
Be as creative as you want to be!