Tracy Playle

Coach. Public speaker. Consultant

The power of acknowledgement to build trust in teams

Last week I had a number of powerful conversations with my co-workers at Pickle Jar Communications. At the heart of those conversations I was seeing an overwhelming sense of responsibility that my team have to each other. Isn’t that just kinda required of them? I hear you ask. Well, no. Not this kind of responsibility - not at this kind of depth and emotional intelligence.

The responsibility to each other that I witness constantly in my team plays out as:

  • Making sure they know what’s expected of them

  • Being clear about what support is available

  • Asking for help

  • Giving really clear briefings

  • A commitment to give and receive feedback

  • A commitment to develop others and self

  • A willingness to share the workload ensuring that everyone gets a great work-life balance

  • Transparency in sharing success, failure and concerns

  • Fighting for wellbeing amongst all.

Now, I have a compassionate team. This is a core value for us. But compassion alone doesn’t determine that trust will be established amongst a team.

There are many factors that facilitate trust in teams. I’ll reflect more on others in future posts. Today I just want to focus on the role that acknowledgement plays.

Making acknowledgement a team practice

For more than two years, every Monday morning before 10am each member of my team is asked to complete a form on Podio (our shared workspace). We call this WAWWO, short for “what are we working on”. It started out as a space to help managers know what the work load was looking like for the week ahead. But within a few weeks of starting this we added two new question boxes that everyone must complete before they even think about what their week ahead looks like:

  1. What did you achieve last week that you’re really proud of?

  2. What did others in the team do last week that you’d like to acknowledge?

These two simple questions embed a practice amongst my team of acknowledging self, and of acknowledging others. And with a couple of years practice in doing this, my team have got really great at it, and it contributes significantly to that culture of trust and depth of responsibility for each other.

Image shows the form on Podio that each member of the team completes each week. Everyone can see each other’s completed forms.

Image shows the form on Podio that each member of the team completes each week. Everyone can see each other’s completed forms.

Every response is visible to every member of the team. I spend time every Monday lunchtime reading them and tagging the appropriate people so they all see their acknowledgements.

On acknowledgement and shared purpose

Here’s why this is important though for building trust. A team that unites and trusts each other is a team who has a shared purpose. Shared purpose is only successful is each individual in that team sees their own purpose and contribution as valued and valuable. And before they can see that, they need to know what their purpose is and believe in it.

The act of acknowledging self as a weekly practice helps to establish individual purpose and ownership of that purpose within the team. The act of acknowledging others establishes value and connection, as well as showing the full web of purpose and how it all connects. It’s a powerful technique for building high performing teams.

As a leader this is the weekly tasks that I most look forward to. I get to acknowledge myself, I get to acknowledge others, and I then get to review everything they’ve all said. And I take no greater pleasure in seeing someone acknowledging themselves for being in touch with their needs and taking care of their wellbeing. Because when individual wellbeing comes first, everyone in the team benefits. But that’s the subject for a future post.

If you’re interested in working me as a coach to make breakthroughs with your team and team trust, please do get in touch. I’d love to work with you and your team.