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