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Mutual trust:
a cause, a consequence and
an indicator of defensive interactions 

Mutual trust or reliance is a critical team success factor: every time I have coached a team to help improve its performance, low mutual reliance is abundantly mentioned. But

  • some of them indicate that low mutual reliance is a cause for their team problems

  • some others see low mutual reliance as a consequence

  • everybody believes that low mutual reliance is a key issue

  • and almost nobody knows what to do about low mutual reliance !

So we will first review a definition in a team context, then discuss how reliance is intimately connected to effective interactions and finally point towards the techniques to do something concrete about low mutual reliance.

I have chosen the following definition:
Mutual trust is a shared belief that you can depend on each other to achieve a common purpose.

In a team, this shared belief  is coming from a feeling of predictability that I can depend from the others. And this feeling of predictability derives from being above the  constructive interactions tipping point, not only "in the instant" but also consistently over time. Mutual reliance is a consequence of constructive interactions .

And this shared belief provokes a readiness to collaborate. When our readiness to collaborate is low, within a team or across teams, we spend a lot of time and energy to patrol our boundaries to avoid any threatening intrusion. We even anticipate potential threats and manipulate information to avoid these - real or imagined ? - threats. So low mutual reliance leads also to defensive interactions.

Mutual reliance is thus strongly correlated - both a cause and a consequence - with effective interactions. And we feel low mutual reliance quite clearly, as confirmed by recent advances in brain sciences. So collective feeling of low mutual reliance is a good indicator of defensive interactions in a team. Just ask yourself: "Do I believe that I can depend on the other team members to achieve our common purpose ?"

 What can we do concretely to reduce mistrust in a team ?

Return from mutual trust to root team building issues

Return from mutual trust to team building results

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