‘IT WAS CATHARTIC AND CHALLENGING’
Keary Harper used the International Team Trust Indicator to help mend a disconnect between a media company’s London and Yorkshire-based leadership teams
By John Keary
‘I guess we have the growing pains of any business, but there seems to be a disconnect between our two offices. And, when we meet, we take decisions OK, but there isn’t any proper follow through. We seem to get on reasonably well, but something is definitely missing. Can you help?’
That was the brief the chief executive gave us. He was an experienced operator, but just couldn’t pin down what was happening – and was clearly frustrated with his colleagues. The company was in the media sector and had recently taken over another business in Yorkshire; the head office was in London. The leadership team of the combined businesses was 13 people.
We decided to use our diagnostic to try to open a dialogue about potential issues. The ITTI (International Team Trust Indicator) was originally developed by WorldWork to help build trust across national cultural boundaries, but has proved equally powerful with teams working within one culture or country. It has been designed to isolate nine different criteria – or indicators – of trust. In this way it can take a broad concept like trust, and focus on which elements in particular might be deficient. Being specific means you can rapidly move to an objective discussion about actual behaviours.
Each team member completed an online questionnaire exploring what they felt they needed – and what they received from other team members.
Each was then given a detailed feedback report measuring trust within the team based on nine trust criteria.
The report was a summary of the team results arising from the completed questionnaires and identified significant areas for team development based on the trust gaps the team had identified. The diagnostic also offered a team coaching guide to clarify and resolve each trust gap and help plan relevant action.
Their responses showed a number of strengths, but also three clusters of major concern:
- Holding back of vital information
- Lack of alignment over business objectives
- Feelings of insecurity and a belief that hidden agendas existed.
It was also obvious that these issues were more acute for those based in the North. Armed with this data, we ran three team coaching sessions in order to minimise business disruption.
Each group took one of the three issues and worked in the session, and then in the business, to pin down the causes and recommend remedies. This phase was not plain sailing: several individuals were in a state of denial about their own behaviour, but as the evidence built up “lights started to come on”, as one of the team put it.
By the time a plenary session took place, much of the resistance had been overcome. The group was able to draw up a ‘Charter’ describing in plain English how everyone should behave in various circumstances. Off the back of this came a detailed action plan and assigned responsibilities for making things happen.
One key member of the Yorkshire team who had been struggling with the new direction of the company subsequently came forward with a new product development that helped transform the whole business.
“We have come a long way in two years”, reflected the chief executive. “We had a clear strategy for growth, but we hadn’t given enough attention to execution and all the key roles have now changed. The ITTI was cathartic and very challenging for some individuals. But it has given us a common language and deep insights so that we can quickly correct things when they go off course. It’s a truism to say that change is a process, not an event. If we don’t trust each other it won’t happen. We now have a framework for ensuring that trust is tested and retested objectively on a day-to-day basis.”
One thing remains to be done in the coming months: run the ITTI again and compare ‘before and after’. Or, to put it another way, use hard evidence to lock in the changes.
John Keary is managing partner at Keary Harper. He is an APECS accredited executive coach, a member of the EMCC and a founder member of the Centre of Applied Positive Psychology
What is ITTI?
- A web-based questionnaire for all team members that assesses trust levels and trust deficits within the team and/or in the team leader
- Based on nine culturally sensitive trust criteria that people use in deciding whether to trust others
- Trust-building activities for facilitators and/or team leaders
- Levels of trust and trust deficits can be benchmarked against other teams
- Open questions are asked to identify specific trust issues for the team
- A team report is used that can act as a basis for facilitated discussion about how to build trust
- Individual responses to the questionnaire remain anonymous