Rebuilding Trust in a Geographically Dispersed Team
Trust and relationships had broken down in a team whose members were in three different locations. A series of events had resulted in staff refusing to speak with one another or cooperate on important organizational projects. The team’s work was critical for the organization’s operations, and the situation was beginning to have a wider effect across the organization and its partners.
In consultation with a senior sponsor in the organization, we designed an approach that would invite team members to meet one another in a face-to-face meeting, the purpose of which was to begin rebuilding trust and enabling effective working relationships.
We met with each member of the team in a confidential interview that allowed them to tell us their perspective on what was taking place and what they thought would be needed to rebuild trust and relationships. We used this information to design the residential retreat as a safe “container” within which we would help the team members to listen to one another and to identify what they would need from one another to begin rebuilding the broken relationships.
Over a period of three days, we helped the team discover their common values for being involved in their work and to get clear information (rather than assumptions) about one another’s background and experiences. As they explored themes that we had heard during their interviews, they came to realize that they shared common concerns and aspirations for the team and the organization. This growing insight allowed them to each take responsibility for how they would need to behave for the team to be effective and productive.
We continued supporting the team during its regular meetings over the next six months, providing feedback and coaching to the team as they integrated these behavior commitments into how they interacted with each other on a daily basis.
As with many processes of change, team members initially struggled to disrupt the patterns of misunderstanding and miscommunication into which they had fallen. The period of follow-on team coaching helped the team members remember their commitments and encourage them as they sought to develop new ways of interacting and working together.
A new leader was recruited for the team after a few months, and the team was ready to welcome her into the new trusting and collaborative culture they were continuing to build together.