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Breaking Down Barriers to Cultivate a Culture of Trust

I recently received a call from a client who was the executive sponsor of a team responsible for creating and delivering the next generation software platform for their clients. He explained, “The company has invested millions of dollars. We’ve dedicated significant resources from across the company to design the new software platform. The GM and his team have daily scrum meetings, detailed project plans. Yet, the team has not delivered. Customers are turning to our competitors looking for an alternative option to meet their needs. Bottom line: we are failing to deliver our promised innovative platform. No one on the team is taking responsibility. Everyone is pointing fingers at others. We’ve got to get this turned around, fast. How can you help us?”

Sound familiar? If you were in this situation, where would you start? Here is where we started.

We decided to quickly dig into the situation. I met individually with the GM and key members of the team across all functions responsible for the design, testing and delivery of the new platform. They candidly told their part of the story about their frustrations and barriers that prevented the team’s performance. In addition, everyone on the team was asked to complete a survey that measured both their level of clarity AND agreement about the team’s vision, values, mission, goals, roles and priorities. It also measured barriers to building trust in the team, and identified what needed to be done to remove them.

Here is what we found. Some of the barriers were structural in nature, some were human in nature. For example, although most people reported being clear about things such as goals, roles and priorities, the amount of AGREEMENT was low. People were not passionate about things they didn’t agree with. In addition there were other structural issues, such as the design of the reward system. Individuals are rewarded for performing their individual deliverables — that’s great, right, so what was missing? Team goals and rewards needed to be designed to motivate a spirit of “we” vs. “I”.

Making things even more complex, the interviews and survey painted a vivid picture of a deeper human element lurking in the background — a “lack of trust.” According to Keith Ayers, CEO of Integro Leadership, relationships are formed as trust develops. "When trust diminishes, relationships become more distant, often leading to conflict. Getting team members engaged and committed to the team’s purpose, values and vision requires a high level of trust. Team members need to know they can trust their team leader and other members of the team."

For more than 15 years, Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has been on Amazon’s best seller’s list. Isn’t it interesting that the foundation of his model for building cohesive, high-functioning teams starts with TRUST. Although there are multiple methods to building trust, Lencioni suggests convening an intense group discussion around personality assessment results.

He writes:

“Some of the most effective and lasting tools for building trust on a team are profiles of team members’ behavioral preferences and personality styles. These help break down barriers by allowing people to better understand and empathize with one another, so that they can move on to passionately debating ideas, making commitments, being accountable and achieving team results.”

When left unchecked, a lack of trust will drip by drip sap our cultures of their vitality. There is more to the story about what happened next. Stay tuned.

Do you want to address those ever-present structural and human issues lurking underground that impede your teams from breaking down barriers to achieve team goals?

Let us help. We have state-of-the art assessment tools and expert coach consultants to help you take the next step in building healthy a healthy work culture.

Contact us at to schedule a call.


About the Author

Dr. Laura L. Hauser, MCC, MCEC

Founder, Leadership Strategies International

Dr. Laura Hauser, MCC, MCEC, works with organizational leaders and their teams (and the professionals who support them) to build healthy workplace cultures. She is an internationally-recognized thought leader and researcher in the highly specialized space of team coaching. Using art and science, she teaches, coaches, supervises and consults in a way that expands mindsets and capabilities needed to navigate through disruption. Laura has been honored for her contributions to the coaching profession. She is the developer of the Team Coaching Operating System®, an ACSTH coaching school accredited by the International Coach Federation. Contact Laura by email or on LinkedIn

When referencing this material, please acknowledge the source: ©2020 Dr. Laura L. Hauser, MCC,

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