This self-assessment activity allows you and your team members to reflect on the ‘trust battery’ they individually have towards each person on the team, and encourages focus on actions that can charge the depleted trust batteries.
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- Increase awareness on the level of trust people have with their team members
- Help leaders and team members to understand in which workplace relations they need to work on
The Concept of Trust Battery
Tobias Lütke, CEO at Shopify coined the term: "Another concept we talk a lot about is something called a 'trust battery'. It's charged at 50 percent when people are first hired. And then every time you work with someone at the company, the trust battery between the two of you is either charged or discharged, based on things like whether you deliver what you promise."
The adoption of this concept helps to assess work relations with greater clarity. By measuring the charge on the trust battery, we have the context to frame any potential conflict. A low trust battery is the core of many personal disputes at work. When the battery is drained, things quickly get judged harshly.
A trust battery is a summary of all interactions to date. If you want to recharge the battery, you have to do different things in the future. Only new actions and new attitudes count.
A trust battery is personal: Bob may be at 85% with Alice, and 40% with Jim. While Alice may be at 25% with Bob and 60% with Jim.
So the point of this exercise is to give you and your team an honest assessment about what is your trust battery with other people on the team.
- Explain the concept of trust battery to your participants
- Hand out the trust battery worksheets and ask people to write the name of their co-workers on the sheets.
- Give a few minutes for everyone to reflect and fill in the trust battery worksheets based on the interactions they had with each person in the past: How much charged is your trust battery towards this person?
- Ask participants to reflect on how they may improve the relationship with those people where the battery is out of charge.
- Debrief the exercise with the following questions:
- Why did you place some people's trust battery lower than others?
- Are there relationships where you perceive that your mutual trust batteries are at different levels of charge?
- What actions can you apply to improve on a low trust battery?
- As a leader or a colleague, what can you do to help your colleagues to succeed in charging their trust batteries?
1. You may use this exercise alone as an individual reflection activity to understand which workplace relationships you need to focus on more.
2. You may use an advanced version of this exercise in a team where team members share their 'trust battery' assessments with each other, per pair.
If you allow the trust battery assessments to be shared, you need to have team members who are entirely open to honest and harsh feedback. And you as the facilitator of the activity must be prepared to deal with the potential tension in the dynamic in the group. Once you let the genie out of the bottle, you can't let the group dissolve, but encourage a constructive conversation on how people can improve their 'trust bank' in the eyes of their colleagues, one-by-one.
Tips for running this activity online
- As participants are working individually on their responses, they can complete the tasks in a Google Doc or on paper. Paper is great if you need to change things up and get users away from the screen; Google Docs is great for sharing and record keeping. We would not recommend using an online whiteboard unless your team is open to sharing all feedback.
- If choosing the advanced option for pair or group work, use a video conferencing tool where you can assign the participants into breakout rooms (eg. Zoom).
- When briefing the exercise and assigning the pairs or groups to work together, keep all participants in the main video conference room and explain best practices.
- After this step is completed, turn on breakout rooms so each group can work on their tasks.
- After the group breakout groups are completed and participants return to the main room, debrief the exercise.
- If you do not have breakout sessions, keep everyone in the main room, though invite pairs and groups to communicate in private messages or small groups in Slack.
This exercise was inspired by a chapter from the bestseller management book: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson