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Creating trust by creating clarity

Dean Fulford of Stratford Group

One of the most engaging types of work we do at Stratford is our Team Effectiveness work – we call it the Path to Performance. In short, we collaborate with teams to establish very clearly both what a team is expected to deliver for the organization, and how they must work together to be successful. The interplay of “What” and “How”.

Logically, this makes great sense…being clearer up front about expectations will lead to less disappointment later and likely less unproductive conflict and tension in your team.

But does increased clarity actually go further, and contribute to creating trust in members of the team?

Paul Zak wrote about the Neuroscience of Trust in an article for the Harvard Business Review. He and his team created scientific models that linked a stronger culture of trust to important business outcomes like improved productivity, having more energy at work, having greater collaboration with colleagues, and reducing attrition. All essential business KPIs.

But there’s more! They measured the variation in the release of oxytocin (that miraculous love hormone that helps us bond with others and promotes positive feelings) from the brain when a trusted relationship was in place. They found that oxytocin also predicted how trusting people would act with each other. More oxytocin = more trust.

They followed this up with more research and found eight management behaviours that foster trust. One factor that jumped out to me was that less uncertainty about expectations and direction increases the release of oxytocin and improves teamwork.

They have measured that investing in understanding these two complimentary components – a defined mandate of a team (what the team must deliver for the organization) AND the interpersonal dynamic (how team members must work together to deliver on your mandate) – results in better trust amongst those team members.

So, whether it is defining organization direction or having a weekly stand up with your team, improved clarity of expectations, direction, and business results leads to better trust in teams.

Without trust, we don’t truly collaborate; we merely coordinate or, at best, cooperate. It is trust that transforms a group of people into a team. – Stephen Covey

About Dean Fulford:

As part of Stratford’s People & Culture team, Dean brings more than 20 years of experience and a deep expertise in leadership development, organizational development and design, project management, process mapping, and best-practice benchmarking activities. With an extensive background in organization development and effectiveness, performance consulting and process improvement, Dean compliments his HR background with strong process management and competency-based project experience.