Storying Your Way To A Trusting Culture
Life-changing stories are inked by competent and creative chapter development. Stories need chapters as much as elephants need peanuts. Chapters provide narrative buildup and progression; they provide the contexts for tone, taste and texture formation, as well as evolution of the story and characters. They also offer a space for pause and reflection - helping us not rush ahead and miss any critical details that need to be understood and carried forward.
Team health and growth, similar to storying, needs to be marked by chapter development. In 1965, professor Dr. Bruce Tuckman devised the four stages of group (team) growth: forming, storming, norming, and performing. (Later, in 1975, he added adjourning.) Using Tuckman’s model (replacing stage development with chapter development), we will ‘narrate’ our way forward constructing team vitality and cohesion, focusing on the leading character: Trust.
Introduction: Trust or Bust
Whether it is a Gallup, McKinsey, or Deloitte report (to name a few), the current landscape of team health is not encouraging or motivating. Just Google “The Great Resignation” to see why so many people leave their jobs in our current climate if you are not convinced! If people are not valued, supported, resourced, and championed in a safe and trusting work environment, they will leave at some point - regardless of how good the salary package is! It is "trust or bust!" We desperately need guidance in cultivating trust among our teams.
Chapter 1: Forming - Trust Tilled
The groundwork for building trust needs to be set, or more specifically, tilled. Teams ultimately operate at the "speed of trust," so this formation stage is critical to long-term health and cohesion. This stage is crucial if team members have been burned by others before - where broken trust occurred.
Here are some steps to take in forming trust:
- Model humility and responsibility via vulnerability, honesty, and dependability/accountability.
- Provide clarity on team function and behaviors - its purpose, values, vision, structure/operations, expectations, and goals/outcomes; clarify what unites us and how we walk that unity out.
Chapter 2: Storming - Trust Tested
Believe it or not, in the natural order of things, storms have a constructive purpose. Whether it be a hurricane or tornado, they play a role in removing nature's debris (a kind of outdoor pruning), reconfiguring water levels and flow, and balancing temperature levels. The storming chapter in team shaping plays a similar role in helping refine and restore healthy team dynamics - testing its mettle. This refining usually happens in the context of conflict, often fueled by misunderstanding and miscommunication.
Here are some steps to take as you transition to and work through this stage:
- Cultivate an environment of psychological safety, fostering and championing collaborative conversations. Here team members are empowered and equipped to offer constructive input and insights based on their unique wiring, personality, and perspectives and are encouraged to hold each other accountable to decisions made.
- Normalize healthy conflict as a critical pathway to truth and the discovery of the best solutions. This helps keep “elephants” out of the room, or at least keeps their visits very short!
Chapter 3: Norming - Trust Tailored
Every snowflake that falls is unique and unlike any other. The reason is that every water molecule in a snowflake participates in its design - this is creative collaboration at its best, void of competition. Similarly, teams begin to embody their unique characteristics - their stride and rhythms - as they emerge from the tempering process of their storm that provides the context for deepening connection and cooperation.
What can we do to journey through the norming chapter?
- Continue to remind and reinforce the team's core values and practices. Sometimes it is easy to let down here and relax, assuming everyone will default to best team behaviors. Not so! Reinforcing through celebrating efforts made - both accomplishments and attempts (failure is often the inside lining of success). Ongoing communication and evaluation are also critical in this phase of team life.
- Continue to acknowledge and affirm people’s unique gifts, talents, and experiences as they each contribute to the ongoing orchestration of their team's rising "song and sound."
Chapter 4: Performing - Trust Treasured
Aristotle famously stated, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." In this place of the narrative, teams exhibit trust and oneness that genuinely transcends the summation of its members. When we see teams performing at this level, people want to give them a standing ovation - it is a human treasure to behold! It is rare to see teams operating in this capacity. What is taking place here is not only the accomplishment of goals and the achievement of results but the ongoing transformation of a team - a shaping of character that has the potential of taking their influence and impact beyond what they could have ever imagined.
For a team to perform well, the following behaviors need to take place:
- Stay humble, stay humble, and remain curious and creative, unafraid to change and innovate when the time comes. The successes of the past often become the barriers to growth in the future.
- Continue to ensure that people receive the ongoing training, resourcing, and support to excel in their roles.
Conclusion: Trust Tenured?
Wouldn't it be great if, after a significant period of cultivating trust, it simply could be tenured? To stay fit, trust, like any muscle, needs to exercise and receive healthy nutritional input. If we want the trust to remain and endure over the long haul - to experience a lengthy tenure - it will need to be continually tilled, tested, tailored, and treasured. (Not necessarily in a linear fashion, but in a spiraling one - where we return to each chapter experiencing it in a deeper and richer capacity).
At Chemistry Staffing, we understand the importance of trust and its role in creating healthy staff. We would count it an honor if you entrusted us with the opportunity to be a part of your story and serve your church with your staffing needs, whatever they may be: hiring, restructuring, or developing.
Some great resources to check out:
Allan has been involved in church ministry for the past 25 years in a variety of roles and settings: church planter, Pastor of Disciple Making and Adult Ministries, Executive Pastor and Coach/Consultant. Allan has experienced many transitions in ministry from a variety of different perspectives. He understands that as painful and stressful transitions can be, they have the potential to transform you more than most things can! Allan, along with his wife of 33 years, Gloria, young adult daughter, and Luna (family Lhasa Apso), lives in Jacksonville, Florida. His son serves as a pastor in Virginia Beach with his wife and daughter. Allan and his family are originally from Canada, where he earned his Master’s in Biblical Studies (Regent College) and Doctorate in Missional Leadership (Carey). Additionally, he is certified as an MBTI, CPI 260 and StratOp Practitioner, and as a Church Unique and God Dreams Navigator. He is an avid runner who loves to hang out with family and friends and is committed to serving pastors and local churches to help them to live out their unique calling.