Trusting Your Team

Rheumatology Practice Management October 2018 Vol 6 No 5 - Leadership
Rick Olsen, PhD
Consultant, The Forté Institute
Chair, Department of Communication Studies
University of North Carolina Wilmington


Trust is a key ingredient of teamwork, and the best thing about trust is that it is contagious. Let’s look briefly at how the principles of teamwork come into play in one of my favorite pastimes, and how these same principles can also translate to your medical practice. Then, I will explain how the Forté Communication Style Profile assessment can increase trust and collaboration in your office.

I love pickup basketball. I’m “50-something” and feel fortunate that I can play from 12 pm to 2 pm several times a week with guys my own age, as well as college students. This week, we had a new guy join the game; he was young and tall, and judging by the shoes, he was a player.

However, he was trying a bit too hard to make a good impression. Sound familiar? In the first 5 possessions of the game, he had 2 turnovers, a badly missed shot, and almost ran over one of his own teammates. I quietly said to him on the way down the court, “Kick it out a few times. We’ll find you.” That is playground slang for “Pass it back out the next time you touch it and trust that we’ll get you the ball when it’s time.” He passed the ball back to us, and we passed it right back to him when the time was right. We won 6 straight games that day and walked off the court undefeated. Trust often improves results.

In basketball, trust requires sharing the ball. You give the ball to the open shooter who has missed his last 3 shots because you trust him or her to either make the next one or do something else right with the ball. Trust requires a short memory when it comes to mistakes. You have to assume that everyone is trying their best, even if the opponent scores. Although trust is contagious, unfortunately, so is mistrust. Teams that do not trust each other typically do not share the ball.

So, how does that translate to your practice? What is the “ball” that you need to share? Is it “attention” and making space for everyone to share at a meeting? Is it “autonomy” and allowing people to work independently and trusting the result? Sometimes it is “authority.” As a manager, an important component of trust is being adaptable.

On the basketball court, one of my teammates was “on fire” making baskets. I can shoot too, but he was hot, so I made sure to set him up more and I encouraged him to keep shooting. Ideally, everyone can see what needs to be done and adapt, but the manager is the key person to model that behavior. You do not defer at the expense of your structural authority and accountability. You delegate to communicate trust in someone who has particular strengths and passions for a given business need. Trust is contagious—and you are patient zero!

Where does Forté come in? Helping teams build trust and collaboration is the main goal of the Forté Communication Style Profile survey. After each employee in your practice has taken the survey, you will have a better understanding of their strengths, motivators, and demotivators. With this powerful information, you will be armed with a tool to manage a team within a strengths-based framework. In basketball terms, we know who likes to shoot the ball. In organizational life, we know who actually likes to make sure the files are perfect. We not only become more aware of ourselves, we become more aware of others and situations. There are more “I see what is needed here” moments, and we can adapt to meet those needs. Self-awareness informs situational awareness and adaptability. When that happens, trust, productivity and job satisfaction tend to increase.

By the way, it turned out that our young teammate actually had an appointment at 1 pm, but he chose to keep playing. He actually said, “The chemistry is too good, I can reschedule.” Wouldn’t you love to be on a team like that?

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Last modified: November 2, 2018
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