Monday, April 6, 2009 by Dave Blum

Due to my father’s passing a couple of weeks ago, I found myself unavailable to lead one of my scheduled scavenger hunts at the Natural History Museum in New York City.  Calling around desperately at the last minute, I eventually get Franco, one of my senior facilitators here in San Francisco, on the phone.  Although it would take a bit of appointment-juggling on his part, Franco assures me he will do whatever it takes to get himself out to New York to lead my program.

The day before the hunt, Franco calls from JFK.  It seems that while reading through the treasure hunt clues during his flight, he’s discovered that one of the questions is incorrect.  Quickly I check over the clue in question — a rebus — and by golly, he’s right: the puzzle doesn’t match the answer!  Knowing that his hunt is following afternoon, I quickly correct the clue, .pdf it, and email it over to Franco in time for him to make copies at Kinkos in the morning.  The hunts comes off perfectly, in large part because 1) Franco is a reliable facilitator and 2) I’ve made sure that the scavenger list is now double- and triple-checked for accuracy.

Franco and I have increased our trust for each other exponentially because he had my back when I needed a last-second facilitator substitute, and I had his back when the hunt materials required a 11th-hour revision.

Trust is built through repeated iterations of such interactions–knowing that your teammates have your back in times of urgency.

And of course, the opposite is true:  if you ask for help and your co-workers fail to step up to the plate to help you when times are tough, you’re undoubtedly going to start distrusting them.

Providing timely, efficient and repeated back up is the 6th key to team trust building.