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Assessing and Creating Trust for Sustainable Executive Team Performance, Part #1

Teams Building Trust

By Dr. Susan L. Glover, FACHE, Vice President, Consultant

Selecting a new executive is a complex process, requiring not only an understanding of the requirements of the role, but also the current state of the C-Suite team and the culture in the organization. If you are hiring a new executive there are two questions you should ask:

  1. How will this person fit into a sustainable executive team?
  2. How will this person contribute to a trusting culture?

Trust is foundational

Trust is foundational for any relationship and is built on respect and integrity. Trust with another person makes you want to be part of the relationship by being present, sharing your talent and energy and your honest thoughts. Trust allows you to feel safe and vulnerable at the same time.

In his landmark book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni (2010) starts with dysfunction number one: the absence of trust, or the fear of being vulnerable with team members, which prevents the building of trust within the team.  Lencioni further expands on trust and team in his book The Advantage, where he describes the first discipline of a healthy organization as building a cohesive team. Lencioni defines a leadership team as a “small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving a common objective for their organization.” As he points out on his (“The Advantage PDF Summary – Patrick Lencioni | 12min Blog”) teams are stronger than their members individually because they combine their solo abilities in a cohesive circle. The Advantage further describes the behavioral principles which are fundamental to effective teamwork. These start with trust which enables the team to engage in productive, unfiltered conflict around important issues, ultimately leading to members putting the collective priorities of the team and organization first.

A high-functioning team acts much like the healthy kinetic chain in the body where all parts are linked and in communication with the spine, allowing the body to freely perform movements. I have found in relationships where there is trust, there is much more willingness and ability to see the best intentions of a person rather than think the worst. I see this frequently in work relationships, from both a positive and negative perspective. Trust enables transparency and confidence in team members to speak up and contribute their opinion, unafraid to take a risk to try something innovative, even if they may make a mistake.  The positive organization culture and ability for the organization to be high performing is built on the strength and health of the team.

Trust-Enabling Management

Leaders set the tone of a trusting culture through their relationships with others. These are relationships where you are truly present, look for the best in people, are nonjudgmental, and look for positive opportunities to work together.

There are seven trust-enabling management behaviors that Paul J. Zak (2017), founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and a professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University, found in his research. First, he noted there is a relationship between trust and the economic performance of an organization. He then went on to identify seven management behaviors that engender trust.

BehaviorWhat it looks like
Recognize excellencePositive public recognition
Enable job craftingGive people projects with opportunities
Share information broadlyIt is important for people to understand the goals of the organization, thus reducing the stress of uncertainty
Build relationshipsExpress interest in others
Facilitate whole-person growthCoaching and mentoring
Show vulnerabilityAdmit mistakes publicly
Give people discretion in how to do their workArticulate the what and why; let people create the how

There are additional practices you can adopt to be a champion for creating trusting relationships. Adopt these practices daily:

  • Make and keep your commitments to yourself and others.
  • Do what is right and take a stand.
  • Be open minded.

In selecting new leaders to join your executive team, use these behaviors and practices as part of your interviewing process. This will enable you to assess cultural and team fit of the candidate for your executive team and organization.

In part two of her thoughts about the importance of building and nurturing trust among members of the organization’s executive team, Dr. Glover will offer steps to develop a sustainable team and how a search firm can help your organization source and recruit the best fit for your organization and your team.

Dr. Susan Glover is vice president and consultant for HealthSearch Partners,

About HealthSearch Partners:

HealthSearch Partners is a nationally recognized healthcare executive search firm. We partner with mission-driven hospitals and health systems to find leaders who are focused on success. As a mid-sized firm, our senior search leaders work with clients throughout the engagement, accessing a larger pool of talent, to find the right candidate that is the right fit.