Ditch the “Trust Fall” and Just Follow Through

Have you ever been depended on for the immediate well being of someone standing directly in front of you?  Have you ever been armed with the knowledge that you are tasked with keeping that person from feeling immediate pain and embarrassment? Knowing that failure to do so will not only result in excruciating pain for the individual but also damage any relationship you might have had with that person, at least for the time being?  Sounds like the description could apply to something life altering and dangerous. However, in this case I am more trying to paint a symbolic picture that is representative of an age old team building trust exercise.  That technique is called the “Trust Fall.” 

For the uninitiated, a Trust Fall is a trust-building game often setup within a group exercise in which a person deliberately allows themselves to fall, relying on another team member to catch the person. As one of 4 siblings we used to do it for fun; to feel the rush of not knowing if (or when) someone was going to catch you.  Of course with family members or close friends, it isn’t long until someone finds it kind of funny to just let the unsuspecting person meet the floor with a thud.  Now the real question is, does it actually develop trust and is it a valuable tool to use in your team building? While there is no scientific evidence that it fosters any elements of trust, it can be used as a metaphor or ice breaking exercise.  So what does help build trust within a team?  The answer is simple; Accountability and Follow Through.

As the saying goes, ‘’trust isn’t given, it is earned.’’ So first we need to allow our fellow team members the opportunity to gain that trust.  As Ernest Hemmingway famously said, ‘’the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.’’ This is surprisingly difficult for some people. I think we have all worked for or with someone who is considered a micromanager, needing to be involved in everything.  How did that make you feel? For most of us, we feel frustrated, angry and wondering why they can’t just trust us to do our job. Given the opportunity to deliver results, we become motivated to do a good job and not let our team down. Delivering on the results and following through on our commitments, deadlines or deliverables is what builds trust within the team.   It is the commitment we make to one another and following through on those commitments, that really builds trust within a team. 

While I appreciate the symbolism of the Trust Fall and the little anticipatory adrenaline rush it gives, I’d rather put my faith into the hands of a team member who follows through and does exactly what they say they will.

‘’Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.’’  - Vince Lombardi