Week 3: Building Trust Dwight thinks that new managers must know how to create and maintain trust with their employees. He views communication as a major component of establishing trusting relatio

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Week 3: Building Trust

Dwight thinks that new managers must know how to create and maintain trust with their employees. He views communication as a major component of establishing trusting relationships. Dwight has set up two real situations that he wants his new hires to evaluate and comment upon in a short three-minute video presentation to the group.

Skill #2: Build trust in individual relationships both locally and at a distance.

In the recent meeting with the new managers, Dwight wanted to emphasize the importance of communication in leading. Dwight reported a recent occurrence in the production department just the other day. Sally Hill was sitting alone at the lunch table when Dwight passed by. Saying hello and getting an unusually quiet reply Dwight stopped to ask if things were alright. Sally said fine but did not look fine. He wondered if something was wrong. Sally, who runs the conveyor belts on the production line, has been on the job since EC began and is very good at her job.

Dwight was right. Things were not good for her on the production line. She was sitting at the lunch counter rather than go back to the floor and her job. It seems that Sally’s new floor supervisor has decided to implement a production efficiency study so that he could measure her efficiency of motion. At first, Sally took Jessie at his word that the study was to see if she could improve her time and therefore get more work completed faster. It wasn’t until she overheard him telling someone else that he was thinking of getting a robot to do her job that she lost faith in him and the company. Shouldn’t they be telling her about this possible change? Is it fair to just announce the change one day and her being out of a job the next? Jessie just lied to her. Not sure of what she heard. Sally consulted some of the other production workers who performed different jobs. That said, there had been rumors. but they knew Dwight and Ike would never do something that drastic without consulting with them.  Sally just wasn’t sure. Worse yet, Jessie made her write down all the data for the study and questioned her if she left some numbers blank. She lost track often and her work began to suffer. Jessie began to come down hard on her and finally put her on probation. When this happened, she finally confided in others only to find that several felt they were not trusted by Jessie. That he seemed to question what they were doing. Only a week after Dwight began to investigate Sally’s unhappiness did things come to a head in the department. Jessie had a team meeting to address the reasons why production rates had dropped. He talked for a half-hour. He asked for people’s opinions and no one would reply. One person asked permission to speak but asked only if the study would take much longer. Finally, Jessie dismissed the team. Jessie did not understand that when he first arrived everyone was happy and helpful. Had he not always been straight with them?  Why was everyone so unhappy now? Jessie finally saw that he had a problem but was not quite sure what it was.

Dwight approached Jessie a few days after the meeting and asked him if the rumors he heard about using robots to replace some of the production workers were true. The nickel dropped, Jessie finally knew what was wrong. Do You?

Skill #3: Building trust in team relationships both locally and at a distance.

In week one Dwight and Ike explained that EC had expanded into the Asian Market. They are concerned that the distributors could function better if they had better teamwork with the groups in Japan and Korea. The current EC teams report that the Asian teams seem quiet when they meet and are not as quick to respond to the new plans. Personal interaction (chit chat) is at a minimum and seems to be one-sided. The EC teams are getting stressed out because they are always taking calls either late at night or early in the morning to catch the Japanese/South Korean working hours.   Overall, they just feel that they are being tested and are coming up wanting.

Creating Trust in a virtual team, especially those with members from abroad, is particularly hard. How can you help the EC team be successful? Show Dwight how you would set up a new international team and how you might help the existing teams.


Create a three-minute transcript to present the conclusions on resolving the issues of trust in the two scenarios.

  • Scenario one should seek to comment on the following points: Identify and explain the trust issues that Jessie has with his direct report. How did he create this problem? What can he do to correct the issue?
  • Scenario two should explain to Dwight how to set up a successful team, establish trust in a culturally diverse environment. It should also include ways now to bolster the trust in the existing teams. Explain the influence of cultural IQ in virtual meetings and how and why it can cloud success. In the discussion of the Asian teams, research the cultural differences in creating trust relationships between Americans and the Japanese and South Koreans.
  • Explain specifically how this relates to the experience of the EC team members. Identifying and describing the steps that should be taken by team members to make the virtual experience work. This template should be something that all teams can follow in the future. Be sure to include a step for cultural diversity if these virtual meetings are cross-cultural. Explain why and how these steps will create trust in the relationship.
  • Both scenarios should include a detailed discussion of the communications issues present and how best to address them for better relationships in the future.

ARTICLE : Your Virtual Team Is Going About Trust All Wrong: How To Build Trust In A Virtual Team

During my fifth deployment as a SEAL, I served as a cross-functional team leader for a joint task force. That’s a sexy way of saying I was responsible for conceptualizing, coordinating and executing operations with other units within the department of defense and governmental agencies. However, our teams were geographically dispersed, which meant the majority of our communications were conducted through video teleconference. There was very little face-to-face communication.

Now think about this scenario. You’re in “bad guy land” and you need to work with a civilian team you’ve never worked with before. Mission success depends on how well your teams work together but you don’t have any past behavior to benchmark; you’ve never seen them train. They feel the same way. However, if you don’t exchange information, share knowledge or collaborate together, you’ll undoubtedly lose together, and you’re not in the business of losing.

Building trust has traditionally been the result of a judgment we make based on observed past behaviors. When Joe says he’ll show up for lunch at noon, for example, and he’s actually there, we use Joe’s on-time arrival to inform our judgment as to the cost/benefit of trusting Joe even more next time. If he was there at noon then maybe Joe is worthy of being trusted more. While this is the traditional approach to earning trust, it’s painstakingly slow. I don’t know about you but time isn’t exactly an abundant resource in my calendar.

But now think of it this way: building trust in the above example isn’t all about Joe. You see, you can wait for Joe to demonstrate trustworthy behavior, such as how he showed up on time (past behavior), or, you can consider how you showed up in the first place. In other words, in determining whether or not Joe was trustworthy you had to have the intention to trust Joe in the first place, which was why you showed up on time, too.

The same was true for us on the battlefield. We didn’t have time to examine past behavior or ask for a “live demonstration.” We had to either give trust or not. In a world that’s constantly changing, becoming more virtual and more “gigged,” opportunities to earn trust are few and far between, which leaves only one alternative: you need to give it.

Giving Trust

When you board a plane you trust that the pilots know what all those bright shiny buttons do (competence) and that they won’t nose-dive the plane into the ground (character). But what did they do to truly earn your trust? Is it because they’re in a position of authority? Did they come highly recommended? Did you read passenger testimonials on Twitter and say, “Yup, this airline speaks to me. I’m in.”? Or, did you give those pilots trust because if you didn’t then you wouldn’t be able to reach your destination? You can’t get to where you want to be if you

don’t give trust. Back to virtual teams…

The concept of giving trust was introduced by Debra Meyerson in 1996 with her concept of swift trust, which is essentially the opposite of earning trust. Whereas earning trust is based on past behavior to validate trustworthiness, giving (swift) trust assumes positive intent to begin with and then adapts beliefs accordingly based on the behavior observed. This is essentially the minimum viable product (MVP) of the trust construct. The question is, how do you increase swift trust in a virtual team when interaction is limited to begin with? Here are a few ways:

Call out the ego.

One limitation to trust is ego (that darn ego just gets in the way of everything), but not from the Freudian perspective that ego is a driver of behavior. Rather, from the “I am awesome and nothing will ever be better than me” sense of self-importance that creates a dividing line between knowledge and intention. Let’s say, for example, you’re working with Sue who is a subject matter expert—her domain knowledge is second to none. However, you also know that her intentions are self-serving. You know that she ultimately only cares about herself, not the team, which means there’s a limited degree of trust you’re willing to allocate to her.

Here’s what you do: call out Sue’s ego. I know. This is the complete antithesis of what your HR department prescribes but perhaps that’s why 20 of 28 markets surveyed by the Edelman Trust Barometer are in “distruster territory.” While one-on-one with Sue, say something like, “Sue, I respect your subject matter expertise but when you did [this and that] it seemed really self-serving. Could you help me understand how the team benefitted?” When you understand Sue’s rationale, you can then ask her, “How do I know that you’ll hold the team’s best interest in

mind?” By speaking candidly, you create an environment for candor to occur. People want to know where they stand with their leaders. It’s when they don’t know that they begin to falsify reality. Clarify expectations and nip the toxic behavior in the bud today before they become worse tomorrow.

Have a process (and trust it).

Many leaders I coach get down on themselves for not knowing or wishing they had known more because they’re the leader. They ascribe the role of leadership to an “all knowing” role where they dish out answers because, in their minds, they’re supposed to have all the answers. But this couldn’t be any further from the truth as to what effective leadership looks like. In reality, it’s not the absence of knowledge that’s the problem for these leaders—they’re brilliant and capable people. The real problem is the lack of communication processes that enable information sharing coupled with an unwillingness to be vulnerable during that process.

Ask questions.

One of the fastest and most effective ways to build rapport is to ask questions. When you pose a question you’re essentially “giving” authority and respect to the other person to hear them out. You’re giving that person time to share his or her views and when you give someone your time, you also give them respect. You can’t have trust without respect and you can’t respect without trust.

When I think back to the environment in which our virtual teams operated, there were a number of organizational levers and team norms that made it successful such as candor, questions and a consistent communication process. Most importantly, we didn’t have time to earn trust. We needed to give it.


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