Turns out building trust is more than team-building obstacle courses and trust falls. Building trust while doing the *work* is a practice that can be nurtured. As we know, we tend to veer toward what we put our focus on. In groups this means being willing to talk about and practice what you need to build trust with each other.
Like anything else, this takes practice. And the way to practice is to identify the small things you can put into play with every meeting and work session. Basically you can create “safety nets” to support each other. We usually do this by developing a set of community agreements.
Inspired by the National Equity Project, we identify both “relational” and “operational” agreements:
- Relational agreements are guides for how you want to be in relationship with each other. For example, a relationship agreement might be made to honor requests for confidentiality.
- Operational agreements are the structures and practices you put into place for your group to be successful. An operational agreement might be as simple as agreeing that for any meeting over an hour, we will build in a 5-minute break.
An important piece is to identify specific ways you can put agreements into practice, help each other get better at them, and have strategies to gently call each other back in.
What we love about this process is that your group puts together the agreements that are meaningful and specific to you and your work. Or perhaps help you address areas that have been challenging or harmful for you in the past. The beauty about having these in place is that you don’t always have to meet them perfectly – but you have a guide that allows you to support each other and get back on track.
So, if your work regularly involves catching each other as you fall over backwards, definitely practice some trust falls.
But if your work navigates intellectual and emotional work, putting in trust safety nets is a better bet.
We help groups knit these nets together. As long as we have their trust.