When your software team doesn’t operate within an environment of trust, you can see the difference. Here’s how lack of trust manifests within a team:
✓ The team members second-guess each other and their team leaders.
✓ They don’t ask each other for help when they need it.
✓ They give weak excuses when they fail to meet targets.
✓ They avoid giving feedback, or their feedback isn’t reliable or actionable.
✓ Alliances form within the team, fostering an unhealthy sense of one-upmanship.
✓ The team becomes dysfunctional and unable to work together on a unified goal.
When your software team trusts one another, on the other hand, the atmosphere is different. You don’t have to spend your time questioning everything that happens at work or every line of code that’s written to make sure things are okay. While any IT project involves some risk, nurturing a sense of trust is key to good work and to a healthy workplace. Take a look at some elements of trust that can affect your team.
When you micromanage the members of your team, you actually send a message that says you don’t trust them. If your team members have proven themselves responsible and reliable in the past, letting them do their jobs without over-supervising lets them use their skills and ingenuity freely.
Do you need to worry about what hours your team members are putting in or what they’ve accomplished on a day-to-day basis if they solving the problems they’re working on? Trust your team even through their failures, helping them to understand that errors are just a step on the journey to the right solution. Trust that they’re doing their best, even if the results aren’t what you expected. Find positive ways to convey feedback and critique to get the message across that you trust your team to do their jobs.
Many managers and team leaders expect trust from their team members but never show any vulnerability themselves. That doesn’t work. Trust is a two-way street. If a manager demands that a team member be honest about their weaknesses or failures, that manager needs to show their own areas of weakness. Trust forms the foundation of any leader’s interactions with their team members. Trust can be given as well as earned.
When a manager shows his team that he needs help, that he makes mistakes, the team will be willing to open up as well. Make sure you truly listen to what your team members are saying so you can respond with honesty and empathy and acknowledge the risk involved in admitting vulnerability. Many engineers and other IT types may find this more challenging than the toughest coding or design project, so managers and executives should be prepared to open the door to vulnerability and trust first.
In 2012, Google launched a project, known as Project Aristotle, to determine what makes a team effective and successful. After years of research and testing every possible factor, they discovered that the most important factor in a successful team was psychological safety. Psychological safety is the belief in a group that a team is a safe place in which to take risks without any fear of embarrassment or punishment.
Psychological safety was grounded in two specific behaviors. The first was conversational turn-taking, with everyone in the team holding the floor for roughly the same amount of time in group discussions. The second was what Google called “social sensitivity,” or the ability to be aware of how the other team members were feeling at any given time.
If your software team is a space characterized by psychological safety, your team members will feel free to share success and critiques, free to be creative, free to take risks. While stopping to have personal or difficult conversations with members of the team may feel like a break from efficiency, Google’s research showed that this environment of trust makes a team much more productive and effective.
When a software team has the psychological freedom to admit and learn from its mistakes, it launches itself into a high-performance mode. A team that trusts each other and listens to each other has the freedom to work at peak efficiency without fear of rejection or punishment. Leaders who build an atmosphere of trust and vulnerability within their teams empower them to do their best work.