Do You Know This Key to Building Team Trust?

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I’ve never done this before.  But, Mo Fathelbab, of the Forum Resources Network, a friend of many years, sent me  a post last week that was fantastic.  I asked him for permission to share it with you.  And, he agreed.  His website is and this post is now on his website, too.

Do You Know this Key to Building Team Trust?

We’ve all done it. And we’ve seen it happen to those around us. Instead of talking straight to someone about a difficult situation, we go around them and vent to a mutual friend or third party.

Why do we do it? It could be because of a learned coping mechanism…or maybe we’re afraid. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Or cause distress.

Sometimes a person simply chooses to keep the issue to himself instead of facing it head on. Then the feelings fester and can lead to a blow-up later on.

There’s a name for this dysfunctional process. It’s called

“triangulation” and it has many repercussions:

  1. The person complaining doesn’t learn to have difficult conversations.
  2. The person listening only hears one side and can become poisoned towards the missing person.
  3. The person missing doesn’t have a chance to defend herself or correct the behavior.
  4. The person listening may also wonder (consciously or sub-consciously) whether the complainer gripes about him, too.
  5. And, in a team environment, the culture becomes less trusting as a result.

In the Middle

When I was executive director of the Entrepreneurs Organization, I made the mistake early on of listening to one person complain about another. In my effort to smooth things over, I went to the other person and heard her complaints. I managed quite effectively to put myself in the middle, listening to two different stories.

As I grew wiser, I learned to refuse to be the listener. Now, whenever someone attempts to put me in the middle, I ask the complainer to address the issue directly with the other person. If need be, I facilitate the discussion between the two people concerned.

Build a Foundation of Trust

Fixing triangulation requires a commitment to tackling issues directly via open discussion. While some complaints can and should be handled privately one-on-one, the risk is that the parties may shy away from the difficult conversation, putting themselves back at square one.

Setting aside space and time at regular meetings to address issues and difficult conversations can do wonders for building a foundation of trust and mutual respect.

— Mo Fathelbab


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