I have been fortunate enough to work with highly competent people, most of my professional life. Whether they were software engineers, system administrators, project managers, business analysts or executives. Each has been smart, savvy, extremely skilled in their craft and very often, great leaders. In cases where they were my peers, they were great partners in accomplishing whatever challenging tasks at hand. That a group of people were successful and continued to be successful can be attributed to the fact that we trusted one another to do the right thing, and provide the feedback, understanding and support when needed. Trust is the hallmark and the foundation of a great team.
Trusting each other, at a professional/work level, isn’t about some touch-y feel-y semantics. Trusting one another is also not about the predictible level of contribution, based on past experiences. That seems counter-intuitive, as most of us are used to thinking about trust in terms of someone doing good before, and therefore is likely to do good again. In fact, trusting in my fellow team members actually means that I am not afraid to be candid and honest, not just about my strengths but also my weakness, without the fear that somehow those deficiencies will be leveraged against me down the line. It also makes it possible for me to ask for help, without the concerns of penalty. It enables me to make mistakes, and recover from them.
It’s not easy trusting people, because we tend to view each other as competitors. In fact, professional achievements often rely on the fact that we’ve excelled and surpassed, those other individuals in the respective fields. However, that path only scales so far because one person cannot be good at everything and at some point, a team of people will absolutely outperform the one. That is why it’s crucial to be a part of a team, and a successful team starts out by trusting one another. It’s not an easy behavior to modify, but without trust, there will be no team. Of course, this must be a mutual move, or we are right back in competition, defending ourselves and killing each other. That is not how teams work. Not every group of people will be able to pull this off, but when it does happen, you’ll be amazed what could be accomplished.