Bruce Fritch, Strategic Snapshots: Refreshing Our Perspective

Generating Trust Throughout Your Teams

It is commonly accepted that trust and trustworthiness are core to team effectiveness. Who would dispute this? Yet, the high rate of disengagement in the workplace indicates most organizations fail to fully assemble their teamwork puzzle (see data reported by Gallup, Bersin/Deloitte, and Aon Hewitt). Many spend big on organizational development and proudly attribute achievement to teamwork, while persistently dumping fear and apprehension into the culture.

The explicit spend on corporate training has grown tremendously in recent years. In 2014 it was over $70 Billion in the US, and over $130 Billion worldwide (Bersin/Deloitte). What is the return on investments in culture? In brilliance? What about the implicit opportunity cost of distrust and disengagement?

The unstated problem is not the impossibility of trust building; instead, it appears to be the superficiality with which trust is regarded. Most superficial is the entitlement mentality of some in leadership roles: the naiveté that despite evidence to the contrary, they are entitled to be regarded as trustworthy.

Here is what appears to be missing: (a) deep regard for universal connection, and (b) the continuous expression of vulnerability without being ostracized. As Neil Shastri of Aon Hewitt puts it bluntly, “If [Millennial] employees don’t trust company leaders, they’re not going to be productive or stick around.”

Adults have a much higher capacity to grok the interconnection of people — to philosophically and practically get the fact that we are one —  and to appreciate that everything leaders do to support such cohesion improves the probability for getting to insight in any team mission. The adolescent strives for egoic individuality, and aims for differentiation from others, while the adult realizes that team brilliance is the magnificent manifestation of human diversity willingly focused through a lens of high mutual purpose — a worthy mission — a why that mutually matters.

We know this; hopefully this mirrors us: “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I’. And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I’. They don’t think ‘I’. They think ‘we’; they think ‘team’. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” (Peter F. Drucker)

At the core of high performance teamwork is the singular, loving verification of unity, of connection — for teammates, for customers, for opportunity, for consciousness of We and Us, and for being more than for doing.

Teamwork that rises to human brilliance is about universal connection, as spirituality is about inter-connection. High performance team work is a spiritual phenomenon. Does this disturb your leadership or attune it?

“People follow leaders by choice. Without trust, at best you get compliance.”
— Jesse Lyn Stoner

According to consultant and writer Patrick M. Lencioni, in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, vulnerability-based trust is the core requirement for the fuel that generates team excellence.

CEO Bob Vanourek revealed, “Trust is built when someone is vulnerable and not taken advantage of.”

Vulnerability-based trust is tested continuously, as human insecurity propels us to carefully monitor the emotional and psychological safety of the team culture. What was elatedly confirmed in the team offsite must survive re-emersion into the daily workplace culture. The canary in the cage is our vulnerability, and if burned up or burned out in a workplace experience that lacks integrity, we withdraw our human brilliance and do only what’s required until we can permanently depart.
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So, briefly here we have considered that trust is hardly attained with a superficial predisposition. That, far from superficial, (a) experience of universal connection and
(b) vulnerability-based trust are powerful for generating sustainable brilliance.

How is your leadership illuminating connection and supporting vulnerability? What are your insights about generative trust? What can leaders do to deeply reinforce practices that develop cultures of sustainable brilliance?


Fritch Consulting facilitates business growth by collaborating with leaders who are striving with core-values to insightfully "do the right thing." I write and speak out of my deep concern for the current crisis of integrity in leadership, with the hope of creating a more discerning conversation and promoting effective action.

Your viewpoints are appreciated and I would be happy to continue the conversation — so I encourage you to Comment below or contact me directly: [email protected]. — Bruce W. Fritch

  • Rick Deitchman

    Bruce: This is such a vital issue. The erosion of trust in America, in institutions, government, business, politicians, going on at least since the Vietnam war, has I believe been a part of the increasing polarization of the American public. Thank you for calling attention to this vital matter.