Trust Your Team Enough To Run into a Burning Building

“Two in, two out”

Trust Your Team Enough To Run into a Burning Building – Al Getler

When people come together to work towards something, anything in fact, a high level of trust must be established for any real work to be accomplished.

A lack of trust between members of a team often makes the team dysfunctional. It makes for politics, back-biting and has every member working towards self-preservation rather than achieving a worthwhile goal.

Leaders of teams without trust will spend all of their time putting out fires, settling squabbles and picking up the pieces each day. The next day they begin all over again. The leader has a choice; walk away or form a team with trust at its foundation.

In his best-selling book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” author Patrick Lencioni describes the problem as, “The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.”

Fighting Real Fires

I used the analogy “putting out fires” above. Look beyond the reality of fighting fires and think about the real thing.

Every day, firefighters may get the call to enter a burning building. The buddy system prevails. It is often called “Two in, two out” where firefighters assure that they each enter the situation together and come out together, no matter what. It requires tremendous trust.

There must be trust between the two firefighters that each is well-trained and determined to do the job they have sworn to do. At any moment the situation can turn against one or both firefighters creating complete vulnerability. They must fight together.

Put yourself in that situation and ask this question: Would you enter a burning building with the members of your team?

Ask yourself another question: Would your team members enter a burning building with you?

If you’re the leader, here’s is your question: Would members of your team enter a burning building at your command trusting that you have made the right decision?

Firefighters, police officers and members of our armed forces depend on a deep level of trust for survival. Their very lives are on the line.

Fighting Workplace Fires

Those of us that are not literally putting ourselves on the line can learn from the intensity of trust required in public service.

Most of us do not require that intensity of trust, yet trust is the very foundation that allows a team to begin to form.

If you have ever gone to summer camp, on a church retreat or even on a company retreat, you have probably been involved in a trust exercise. The most common one requires you to fall straight back in a free-fall from a standing position only to be caught by a team of people before you crash to the ground. It is a fast lesson in trust.

We do goofy icebreakers like the free-fall exercise to show teams of people who it all begins with trust. Once we give each other trust, we expect trust in return.

Evaluate Trust and Act

Take a hard look at your team members today. Decide if they are the “burning building” type of people. If you can answer yes, then work hard to maintain that level of trust.

If your team is dysfunctional then decide to act. Become a trusted team member or a leader one can trust. Set the example. Reflect the outcome you desire and the trust will build.

Here is a practical example: Let’s say you work in a retail environment and you notice a coworker getting reamed out by a customer. You can see that your coworker is about to blow, so you step alongside them and say quietly, “I’ve got this. Take a break.”

The coworker gets to step aside, cool off and pull it together. Your fresh perspective can be used to turn the situation to a conclusion. Even if the conclusion is to send the customer up the chain of command, it will be over for you and your coworker.

Now, analyze the situation. Your coworker sees that you have protected them from losing their temper. They see that you were willing to jump in and take some heat on their behalf. They hopefully realize that you didn’t have to do that, but you chose to do it because you are a team player. To a lesser extent you exercised “Two in, two out”. Chances are good that your coworker will repay the favor and your example will spread.

Leading Teams to Trust

As the leader, it is your job to be direct about trust. It is your job to point out when trust exists and when it doesn’t. It is your job to clearly identify team members you would not trust as a team member and work on corrective counseling. It is also your job to make a decision to cut team members that don’t fit, team members that can’t trust or be trusted.

Once trust is in place teams can move towards doing great things. Teams that practice “Two in, two out” do not have to worry about being human, making mistakes or even having a bad day. They know their team members can be trusted to see them through it.

”Trust each other again and again. When the trust level gets high enough, people transcend apparent limits, discovering new and awesome abilities for which they were previously unaware.” – David Armistead

“Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” – Patrick Lencioni

Do you have a team built on trust? How did you get there? Share your thoughts in the Disqus section after this post or by clicking HERE if you are reading it in an email.

Al Getler is a newspaper, website, book and magazine publisher. He is also a comedian/ventriloquist and a speaker on leadership, customer service and personal branding.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.