Trust: The Glue That Binds a High Performing Team Together

By Dana Gillis, Executive Coach — No matter the sport, each year I always recall former Indianapolis Colts head football coach Jim Mora’s classic post-game interview rant during playoff season. As I watched this year’s NBA and NHL playoffs, I started thinking about what factors make one team an also-ran and another team a champion. Given our company’s focus on high performing teams, I thought it would be useful to revisit the five behaviors of a high performing team as identified by Patrick Lencioni in his seminal work, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

What’s that? Ah – Playoffs? Don’t talk about – playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?”

high performing team

Five Behaviors of a High Performing Team

Think about the best performing team you ever worked on. What made that team so special? If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that your positive memories of the experience are influenced by trust, productive conflictcommitmentaccountability, and collective results. Of these five traits identified by Lencioni, which one do you think is most important in reaching the goal of a high performing team? Accordingly, wouldn’t you want to develop that trait in your team?

Foundational Behavior for a High Performing Team

The highest performing teams I have ever been a part of shared one foundational trait, TRUST. The trust of which I speak is not trust as defined in the dictionary. Rather, it is a trust built upon the ability to expose one’s faults and vulnerabilities in front of managers, peers, and other members of a team — without fear of judgement.

“A culture of trust within an organization or team creates an environment where team members can freely admit to gaps in knowledge and skills that affect job performance.”

Without trust, many a “team” could and would have failed. For example, think about the soldiers, paratroopers, sailors, and pilots who executed the D-Day landings at Normandy. Without trust in their leaders, they would not have participated in, let alone triumphed over, the long odds against their successful incursion into France, and changed the tide of World War II.

A culture of trust within an organization or team creates an environment where team members can freely admit to gaps in knowledge and skills that affect job performance. Where trust truly exists, a culture develops that allows team members to intellectually and creatively stretch their thinking and problem-solving ability. Consequently, teams are free from the fear of judgement by others, should their endeavor fail.

Team + Lack of Trust Does Not Equal a Team

Recently, I worked with an ineffectual team to address why their group was not effective in reaching its objectives. I asked the team a fundamental question, “Do you trust each member of your team?” A resounding “NO!” was heard from several members of the team. Their response confirmed what I suspected. Undeniably, the lack of collective results on the part of the team was significantly impacted by the lack of trust among team members. So, what does trust look like in a high performing team?


Are your managers struggling to retain their teams?


Trust and the High Performing Team

The presence of these traits will put your team on a path to high performance:

  • Transparency
  • Inclusiveness
  • Relationships Built on Understanding


Transparency, inclusiveness and understanding are significant factors contributing to the success of high performing teams. However, these traits are only a sampling of how also-rans become champions. As shown above, there are other behaviors that help round out a truly healthy team. Even so, performance will be lackluster without a foundation of trust – whether the team is on a playing field or in a boardroom. 

If you want to learn more, check out our Fearless Leaders Masterclass®  to learn how to build and leverage a high performing, Fearless team!

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