Engendering Trust


What is required to build trust? Perhaps Emerson had the answer: “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.”

The starting point of trust is getting to know each other. You need to be willing to be vulnerable, share your fears, weaknesses and to listen with an open mind. How do we do this? By spending time together, sharing and listening. Let me share with you a few exercises (none of which were created by me), which would help in the process:

Six Questions: each team member takes 10 minutes to answer these questions:

  1. Where were you born?
  2. How many siblings did you have?
  3. What was the most challenging experience you had growing up?
  4. What was the best job you ever had and why?
  5. What was the worst job you ever had and why?
  6. Share something that very few people know about you.

You will be surprised as to how much you can learn about a person by just listening to their answers. Human beings have a need to share and open up, but this can only be achieved in an atmosphere of trust.

The second exercise is called Share Your Shield. The various segments of the shield are designed for the participants to share their inner feelings. How do you see yourself? How do you think people see you? What can you offer others and what would you like others to help you with? What motivates you and what irritates you?

Each member can also mention his personal motto at the end of the shield. The mottos – what people stand for – are always interesting and revealing.

The third exercise, called the Johari Window, is especially helpful when the team has worked together for a few months. It focuses on the “Blind Self,” a side of ourselves that we do not see but others do. The purpose of this exercise is for our teammates to help us see this hidden part. Everyone jots down two things about the other people in the room: 1) Things they do that are positive and helpful to the team and 2) Things that they do, perhaps inadvertently, which hurt the team.

The team starts with giving feedback to one person, generally the leader. One at a time, you tell this person what you see their positive attributes to be. The recipient of these comments can only ask a clarifying question but cannot defend, make any other comments, or argue. Now the team shares the second part of the equation: things that you would like this person to improve or abstain from. The same norms apply.

There are many such exercises. Please keep using them and getting to know each other better. Truly understanding someone takes time. Be respectful of the other person’s feelings. However, you must also be honest. Being politically correct is both demeaning and unproductive. The purpose is to give constructive feedback and help one another grow. In an atmosphere of trust, virtually all things can be put on the table and addressed.

Everything starts with trust.

Verinder Syal, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within

Dysfunctional Teams Are The Norm


By now you have, I hope, understood that to become a successful entrepreneur, you do not need to know everything. You need a team that can together put together all the pieces of the puzzle. However, often teams do not understand what is expected out of them. There is confusion regarding who is responsible for what. Dysfunctional teams are the norm.

Patrick Lencioni in his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team looks at team dynamics and their inherent dysfunction thoughtfully and engagingly. I also suggest looking at his website (tablegroup.com). Let’s take a look at these five dysfunctions.

  1. Absence of Trust: The sad reality is that people do not trust each other easily. It is common to hide behind a facade. Facebook may be the ultimate mask that one puts on. What is real, what is true, who are we really? Who knows? We do not want to be vulnerable, so we hide and we pretend to be invulnerable. What are we so afraid of? Back to our old friend – fear. Fear of being hurt. Fear of being let down. Fear of not being good enough… you know the story.
  2. Fear of Conflict: When there is no trust, people avoid any conflict of ideas, leading to artificial harmony. They don’t really believe in what is being said, or advocated, but it is too much trouble challenging other people. Besides, if you challenge someone, you might be challenged back. Who needs that, right? It’s much better to nod your head, smile and get the meeting over with as quickly as possible so you can get back to all that work piling up on your desk. Sound familiar?
  3. Lack of Commitment: As you walk out of the meeting, commitment to the goals is the last thing on your mind. The phone calls you have to return are far more pressing. You feel that most of the goals are crazy and unachievable and in any case, Tom (or X, Y, or Z) never follows up. How could you really commit to these so called team goals? From my days of working in a big company, I still can recall many times when business leaders made implausible commitments to deliver heroic results. This would be followed a few months later with a new story and a new reason for the lack of results. Companies create cultures by their actions. This organization had inadvertently created a culture of earnest oratory and flashy presentations, with little emphasis on true commitment and accountability.
  4. Avoidance of Accountability: Not surprisingly there is not much accountability in such organizations. Excuses readily sprout up. Blame, if needed, is quickly apportioned to some unlucky soul with less    political skills. It’s all a game.
  5. Poor Results: The results are usually disappointing. People take credit for what little has gone right and then pin the failures elsewhere. It is said that success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. Poor results, before we know it, become the norm.


Verinder Syal, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within