To Trust You, I Gotta Know You

mindset perfromance trust Jan 30, 2020
My most recent team session with Seton Hall baseball was all about trust. 
Great teams trust each other. Like culture, it’s invisible, but you can build it. 
Trust is one of the reasons why elite teams in the military, law enforcement, and firefighting are so close. And trust is one of the secret ingredients that let’s them compete at a high level. 
In fact, referencing a study about how the U.S. Navy SEALs select their best, Simon Sinek said that trust was even more important than performance. In other words, the SEALs would prefer a mid-performing teammate who exhibited high trust, than a high-performing teammate with low trust. 
When there is trust, you feel as though you can be your authentic self. You can focus on doing YOUR job and not somebody else’s. 
When you trust that a teammate is willing to sacrifice for you, you will be more likely to sacrifice for your teammate.
So how can we build trust on a team?
As Sinek points out, there are a ton of metrics for how we can measure performance (stats, sales quotas, votes, etc), but we struggle to measure trust. 
I would argue that in order to trust someone, you have to know them and they have to know you. And the more they know you, the more they can trust you. But that means you have to be vulnerable. That may not be easy for players in this day and age. 
Here is one exercise that I’ve seen work. I first saw it from Coach Billy Armstrong, the head basketball coach at Bergen Catholic High School and an amazing leader himself. I’m not sure what he calls it, but I refer to the exercise as “If You Really Knew Me.” 
1. Start by discussing the importance of trust and why it is key ingredient to high-performing teams. 
2. Next, explain the exercise. Invite any player or coach to come to the front of the room and sit in a single chair facing the room. They should start by saying, “If you really knew me, you would know that ...” It can be anything, but every player should know there is no judgment. 
3. It helps if the facilitator begins the session by going first. For example, I began my session with the Seton Hall baseball team by saying “If you really knew me, you’d know that I’m scared about my own mortality. My mom and all three of her brothers died very young (my mom was 54) and I fear I only have a few years left. I’m scared for my wife and daughter, and I want to make sure I’m doing impactful things at work and in my family life.” 
4. Then invite other volunteers to share their truth. As a heads up, it might take a while, but don’t give in to the silence. Let it sink in. If your team knows that you’re committed to this, somebody will volunteer. When they do, encourage everybody to clap. Make sure you look them in the eye, shake their hand, and thank them for sharing. Once one person goes, it usually breaks the ice. I also recommend having the coach or assistant coaches go in order to lead by example. 
If players and coaches are willing to be vulnerable, I guarantee you that this exercise will be one of the most emotional and powerful team-bonding events you can do. 
I also guarantee you (and your team) will learn things about each other that you would likely NEVER have learned if not for this exercise.
Once the barriers are broken and the walls of insecurity are broken down, you will see each other in a new light. 
You will recognize that there EVERYBODY is going through something. And those that don’t have any adversity in their lives at that moment will realize they are in a position to support their teammates. 
To trust one another, we have to know one another. This exercise helps your team accomplish this. 


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