InMotion Consulting & Coaching

Deirdre Danahar – High Performing People and Team Coach| Consultant | Speaker

Helping busy professionals with complex lives
Expand their career potential
Bring their best-of-self traits to their fullest potential
Lead with integrity and inspiration
Find work-life flow

Lead. Grow. Flow.

Want a Sure-Fire Way to Build Team Trust? Ask This Question

What should be top of mind when pulling a team together?

(a)   The project objective and the expertise needed to meet that objective
(b)   A strategic approach to guide the project’s implementation
(c)   Your expectations for each team member
(d)   All of the above

Of course the answer is (d) All of the above.

But here’s the thing.

There’s more – a lot more – to a team project than objectives, outcomes, strategies and expertise.

Do you include the needs of the team members and their expectations of each other?

If you don’t, you’re not alone.

Even seasoned team leaders rarely set expectations and create engagement in ways that get excellent results while fostering the trust and chemistry necessary for a team to perform well, never mind creating a structure for clear communication among team members.  

A Predictable Trust-Crushing Pattern

Most often a team leader will list a set of objectives, give a deadline and tell people to get on with it.

If team members know each other, they are left speculating: Will Floyd stop overpromising on what can be done by when? Will James follow through or drop the ball, again? What resources does Jane have access to and will she share them with the group?

If team members are new to each other, doubts take root: Why are Tim and Alice part of this group? I’m not sure I like the new guy; he’s had his eyes glued to his notes and never once looked up. Jane is a newbie and I can’t imagine what she’ll be able to do.

You can hear the distrust sprouting like weeds between the questions, the uncomfortable silences, the sidelong glances and the smothered sighs.

One Powerful Question Breaks the Pattern & Cultivates Trust

If you want a highly effective team, the trust level needs to be high. All team members must believe their teammates will act in the best interest of the team. And if someone’s behavior centers around self-interest, the rest of the team needs to be comfortable confronting the team member about the behavior.

 So how do you to get this level of trust?

The fastest, most effective way I’ve found to sow seeds of trust is to ask each member of the team this question:

In order for you to be a successful contributing member of the team, what do you need from each person on this team?”

That question has the power to change patterns, redirect relationships and transform the very nature of a team – even one that has been working together for years.

How Asking the Question Deepened Trust
(And Shattered Negative Self-Perceptions)

One of my clients, a state government department, gathered a team of seasoned professionals to implement a multi-year, statewide, seven-figure budget project. Although this group had worked together previously, they wanted a fresh start for this new project.

Bringing the team together during a face-to-face kick-off retreat laid the foundation for the project and stimulated team synergy. Of all of the issues we took on, the topic that elicited the strongest response was addressing needs and expectations of the team members.

I asked each team member to answer the question …

“In order for you to be a successful contributing member of the team, what do you need from each person on this team?”

Each team member got crystal clear about their expectations by articulating how they sought to be supported and how they would support others.

And they were challenged to offer a high level of specificity in their requests.

“I need you to honest with me is not clear enough to be helpful.

“Ben, I’d like for you to use your editorial ‘eye and ear’ to give me constructive feedback on my presentations. Please be specific and unsparing, but don’t offer only negatives. Help me figure out how to improve” is precise, detailed and useful.

As we moved through the process, team members came to agreement about how to meet the requests they made of each other, setting the norm for a healthy exchange between colleagues.

And three remarkable things emerged.

1. You could feel the trust and commitment within the team grow, because each person had to have skin the in game in order to move forward. Making requests that exposed vulnerabilities took a combination of courage, respect and humility, the cornerstones for building trust.

2. The focus was on strengths and the confidence they had in each other, not weaknesses. Each team member’s strengths, from content expertise to qualities of their character, were highlighted by the requests made. A bonus? Several team members discovered that negative self-perceptions were actually viewed as positive, even welcome, traits by others on the team.

For example, Mel, a natural leader, loathes the idea of being viewed as pushy, so she held back in the past. The team asked her to help the project stay on track. “We have faith you’ll keep us organized and accountable without bulldozing or nagging. You know how to get us focused on what needs to happen next. We want that. We need that.”

3.  The team laid the foundation for open, constructive communication. They ask for what they need from each other and know that it will be given in service of the team achieving its objectives. The team is confident about the project and each other.

How 3x5 Cards (and 1 Question) Will Help Your Team Radiate Trust

Ask the question early in the process: “In order for you to be a successful contributing member of the team, what do you need from each person on this team?”

  • Provide each team member with index cards and have them write their name on each card and add teammate names, 1 teammate per card
  • Suggest each team member write 3 to 5 statements on each card, completing the sentence “What I need from [Name] is . . . because this will help me . . . ”
  • Ask the team member to pass their cards out to each other. One by one, each team member reads the cards they received.
  • Have each team member decide for each request what to say yes to, no to or make counter offer to (I can't do this but I will do that).
  • Repeat this process of accept-decline-or-counter-offer, until all the requests are addressed and agreements are made.

Team members will receive valuable feedback from the group that helps them define their role.


Deirdre Danahar is a coach and consultant who helps high-performing executives, professionals and entrepreneurs respond successfully and creatively as the situation in front of them changes and their career progresses. She’s found is that the same skills help people making a career transition or who are stepping into a new leadership role. Contact her at or visit to learn more about her work.

Copyright 2013-2015 by Deirdre Danahar; Images by Brice Media
InMotion Consulting and Coaching, Jackson MS, 601-362-8288