The most effective leaders share a lot of characteristics, but the most important is their ability to inspire trust.
With a solid leadership foundation of trust, team members will act freely and without fear, and they’ll be more willing to take risks, move outside their comfort zones, and explore new ideas. They’ll more readily share information, feeling confident that other members of their team have their best interests in mind.
I asked Dave Bushy, a long-time friend, mentor, and colleague who is a well-known aviation consultant and executive coach, to describe an example where he observed the positive effects of trust. This is what he shared:
“Take my experience at JetBlue, for example. Dave Barger, JetBlue’s president and CEO, is committed to running an organization of respect, empathy, and integrity. His team members trust him as an individual and as a leader, and they want to follow his lead. As a result, JetBlue has achieved brand recognition, respect within the marketplace, and, most importantly, a culture driven by trust.”
Without trust, you can’t lead effectively, and your teams cannot reach their full potential. Fostering trust in your organization isn’t an easy process, but it is worthwhile because it will increase functionality across your organization.
One way to facilitate this process is by understanding trust through the use of a model. Not only does that help educate team members about the importance of trust, but it also provides them with a common language that can drive honest conversations.
A Tangible Framework for Trust
One well-known framework is drawn from Jack Gibb’s Theory of Group Development. The theory states that as the level of trust increases, unhealthy dynamics begin to fall away, increasing the functionality of the group and creating a safe space for dialogue, debate, and problem-solving.
This theory centers on the pyramid-shaped “TORI” model, which takes into account the key aspects of a highly functional team. At the bottom of the pyramid rests trust, above that is open and effective communication, next comes realization of common goals, and finally, interdependence forms the peak. Recently, people have started adding a second “R” for respect, which, in effect, makes it the “TORRI” model.
According to Gibb, every group member experiences two lives — his or her own life and the collective life of the group. On the group level, members ask questions about how they’ll work together, who is making decisions, and so forth. As individuals, they wonder if their voices will be heard, how they will fit in, and how they can exert some control within the group.
Put Trust Into Action to Become a Better Leader
As a team develops and faces these and other questions, its members progress through the TORI/TORRI model. Sometimes, team members will have to take a step back to regain momentum, but throughout the journey, the team will experience a number of increasing benefits.
Not only does this model provide a tangible, easy-to-use framework and language for understanding group dynamics, but it also helps group members understand their feelings. Finally, it provides a structure for individuals and groups to ask and answer questions that will clarify situations and build trust. To foster organizational trust based on this theory, start with these three steps:
1. Be intentional about developing trust. Establishing trust is easy, but losing it is even easier. As the leader, you must hold yourself and your team accountable. When team members’ efforts are being put toward flying under the radar and hiding their true feelings, organizational success takes a hit. So make sure that you always clear the air.
2. Use Gibb’s model as a guide. When your team members have a clear understanding of the TORI/TORRI model, they’re better equipped to engage and ask questions in an honest, respectful way that benefits everyone.
3. Serve as the example. Use Gibb’s framework as a means to coach your team on matters of trust, and soon they’ll start navigating issues of trust on their own.
Trust is the foundation of any relationship. In the military, you need to know that the people next to you have your back, and the same goes for the corporate world. When companies adhere to the TORI/TORRI model, great things can happen.
Just look at Buffer. The tech company decided to embrace a culture of transparency and trust in order to help drive teamwork. It discloses employee salaries on its website, a move that took an enormous level of trust. As a result, not only did the company see a big increase in the number of job applications, but it also started receiving higher-quality applicants.
By being intentional about developing trust, using Gibb’s model as a guide, and serving as an example, you can ensure your team is functioning at its full potential. Keep your foundation of trust strong, and as with any well-built structure, your team will stand the test of time.
This article originally appeared on Forbes