Six Trustworthy Signs Someone Needs To Be Booted Off The Team

October 26, 2010 6 Comments

If team members don’t trust each other, will it affect the performance of the team? Yes, according to new research published in the Academy of Management Journal. This well designed study of 73 teams, consisting of 565 team members and 73 supervisors also offered partial explanation for how trust between team members affects team performance.

Trust is an attitude that represents our willingness to be vulnerable to others in situations involving risk. The degree of trust team members have in each other affects how they behave toward each other.

This study found that trust helped team members monitor each others’ behavior to make sure everyone completed work on time. The study also found that trust affected how much effort team members gave toward accomplishing team objectives. Trust did not have a significant direct effect on team performance. Trust enabled the specific “teamwork” behaviors of team members putting forth individual and collective effort and holding each other accountable for accomplishing team objectives.

Another recent study on trust in teams found that an effective way to ensure team member trust is simply to select team members that are generally more trusting of others and avoid folks that are not. People with a trusting disposition are more likely to find others worthy of their trust. We learn how trustworthy people are as we observe their abilities, integrity, and intentions (benevolence) toward us.

If a team member exhibits the following, getting them off the team should improve team performance:

1. Doesn’t credit others with trust until proven otherwise
2. Is Incompetent or repeats the same mistakes
3. Doesn’t care about others
4. Stands for work values the majority of the group does not share
5. Won’t hold themselves and others accountable for completing tasks on time
6. Consistently gives less than 100% effort to the team

If you lead a team or your business relies on teams to accomplish its work, you better give more than just lip service to trust. Trust me, it matters.

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Comments (6)

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  1. thank you for sharing this information on trust.
    It is too often thrown around organizations as something that can be “fixed” externally. And as you show in the post requires leadership and focused effort to grow.
    This dis-trust and allowing for mal-adaptive behaviors to occur creates a loss of trust in teams.

    [Reply]

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I think you are right, Michael. Trust has to be managed. Thanks, Bret

    [Reply]

  2. Ken Carroll says:

    All good sugestions, Brett.

    The problem I have though, is that these aren’t terribly quantifiable. It’s hard to make the case that someone should be fired because he doesn’t care about others or even because he isn’t giving 100%. What do you suggest in this case?

    [Reply]

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Ken. I’m not suggestion someone be fired because they don’t care or give 100% effort. But the research is VERY clear that these things matter to team performance. If team performance matters, then you better find a way to get the folks that can’t get on this page off the team. Operational definitions are always sticky, and concepts like caring and effort, while difficult to define and measure, are not impossible. The first step is recognizing the importance of monitoring these things, and then finding a way to make it happen. Thanks, Ken! Bret

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  3. Susan Mazza says:

    These are great indicators Brett regarding whether someone is predisposed to grant or be able to earn trust of others. It does matter!

    A team won’t be successful unless the team members know they can count on each other (and what they can count on each other for).

    I do think we need to get much better in our ability to assess trust and especially in dealing with breakdowns in trust though. All too often misunderstandings and unmet expectations lead to false conclusions about trusting or trustworthiness that if addressed well could actually increase trust rather than fracture the team.

    [Reply]

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome back, Susan! I think you have a great point. We need to get better at building, maintaining, and repairing trust when it is violated. The way to do that is to make it an explicit issue in teams. Teams that trust perform over the long run. Thanks! Bret

    [Reply]

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