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Trust Building Exercises

Ask any newly formed team member if they trust their fellow team members and you will invariably get "Yes" for an answer. Dig a little deeper and you will discover that this trust level is conditional. Yes, we trust one another to behavior generally within the bounds of acceptable social behavior. Yes, we trust each other to not to overtly put individual interests above the needs of the team. But the kind of trust that a High Performance Team needs to develop in order to reach peak performance takes time to develop. An old saying goes something like this: "Trust takes a long time to build up, but can be destroyed in an instant." We learn to trust only by repeatedly taking personal risk and experiencing positive outcomes.

One of the coach's primary responsibilities is to help the team learn to increase its trust level with one another. Trust building exercises help a team increase team trust levels. The fastest way for a team to learn to work together and trust one another is to attend a high initiative or ropes course. These two to five day programs are offered to business and organizational team by independent training organizations such as Outward Bound, Powder River, and my personal favorite: the now closed Saturn Excel Program. Hanging at the end of each other's rope is a great way to increase risk taking and trust levels, using an ultra safe and highly supervised course. These courses can be somewhat expensive, costing $500 to $5,000 per person depending on course, duration, and travel costs. If you take, or send, a team out on a ropes course: It is absolutely critical to assure yourself that your high initiative course is double safe. That is, any person in the air has two sets of safety ropes attached, held by two sets of guy wires, held by two teams of spotters on the ground. Whatever can happen, will happen!

When time or money do not permit sending team members through a ropes course experience, a series of low-initiatives, meaning low to the ground, are possible using only the space found in office conference rooms and parking lots. Here are several that can be used to teach trust concepts.

Who's got a dollar? exercise

Global Vote

Willow in the Wind exercise

Trust Walk exercise

Out of Control exercise (For Executive Teams)

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Copyright (C) 1996-2002 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.