Four Kinds of Trust (3): Help People to Trust Each Other

In management and leadership literature one of the topics most often referred to is trust. Trust between two people operates in two directions. I can choose to trust you, and you can choose to trust me, but neither requires the other. In the situation of a manager and several team members we can identify four types of trust relationships. I describe each of these in four different blog posts. The first post was Trust Your People, the second was Earn Trust from Your People.

Even when you trust people, and they trust you, the situation still needs some work when the team members are reluctant to trust each other. This is particularly true for newly formed teams, teams spread over multiple locations, and team members with different job titles, like programmers vs. testers.

When trust among team members is low (for whatever reason), you should concern yourself with communication and commitment.

First, you make sure that communication among team members is improved by increasing the bandwidth and quality of their communication. Stand-up meetings, co-location, pair programming, team dinners, brainstorm sessions, and information radiators, are just a few of the many things that you and the team can introduce to get to know (and trust) each other.

Second, you see to it that commitment for activities in the team is being negotiated and respected. People new to agile software development may need a little help in this area. Assist individual team members in doing what they promised to do, so that their fellow team members are able to trust them. When it turns out they are unable to keep their commitment, help them in communicating this early and honestly.

Your involvement may not be necessary with an experienced team that has been doing projects together for a long time. But when there’s a small change in team membership, you might want to watch carefully that the new team members are participating fully in communication and commitment, and earning trust in their new team.

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