It is nearly impossible to count on someone you don’t know. Try this simple exercise with your team to get to know each other better and build mutual trust.

Why trust is important to your team

Successful teams are built on trust. Without it, there is less collaboration, creativity, and productivity. Trust in a team provides a sense of safety which allows people to open up, take risks, and work more effectively together - becoming stronger and achieving more together. High performing teams know that they can count on each other and understand that all contributions are welcomed and valued.

One way to build trust in your team is to create opportunities for your team members to get to know each other better and see each other as people. Focusing on connections can help people understand and appreciate those they work with, even if they don’t always see eye to eye on everything. This can be as simple as doing quick icebreakers to start your team meetings or planning social activities outside of the office.

The high-five agreement

The high-five agreement is a straightforward exercise you can run with your team members where they answer five questions about themselves. Each question is related to a finger, and together they make up the high-five agreement. By simply sharing their high-five agreements, your team members will better understand each other.

Example:

Thumb: How do you like to receive praise?

I like to receive praise on a personal basis but I don’t mind if it is done in front of others. I have no preference for written or verbal - either works for me!

Pointer: How do you want things pointed out to you?

I like to have things pointed out to me in written form, if possible. It gives me the time to take in the information and think about it before reacting. I can sometimes get defensive if things are pointed out to me in front of others.

Middle: How do you deal with conflict?

When I’m in conflict I need time to cool down before I can discuss and come to an agreement. Please give me time, and when I’m ready I’ll come to you.

Ring: What is important to you?

It is important for me to feel helpful. Whether it be to customers or colleagues, I want to do my best to help people out.

Pinky: What is your weakness?

I am a detail-oriented person and can sometimes forget about the big picture. When this happens, a gentle and friendly reminder will help me readjust my focus.

Through this exercise, two things will happen:

  • The team members sharing this information about themselves will show some vulnerability, which requires trusting that their team members will accept them.
  • The other team members, armed with this information, will get a chance to build trust with their colleagues.

For example - If I know that your weakness is overcommitting and saying yes to everything, I will be more conscious about asking you to do something, and confirming that you really have time to do it.

Preparation

You can run this exercise in one meeting (including enough time for team members to reflect and give genuine answers) or two meetings (one to introduce the exercise and one for presentations). Make sure to complete your own high-five agreement ahead of time to share with your team as an example.

Step 1: Introduce the concept

Explain the exercise to your team members using the information above. It is important to share with them the value they will get out of this exercise - which is not only understanding each other more but also having the chance to be understood.

Step 2: Create individual high-five agreements

Each person should create their own agreement to share with the rest of the team. You can create a simple slide deck with one slide to complete per team member.

Step 3: Share high-five agreements

Take turns presenting your high-five agreements, this should take about 5 minutes per person. Presenters can go into more detail if they wish or they can give the opportunity to answer questions from their team members.

Step 4: Follow up

Keep your team’s high-five agreements in a place where anyone in the team can access it, like a shared folder or a knowledge center. Team members should be able to reference the agreements at any time to refresh their memories about each other.

Now that you know the importance of trust in your team and how getting to know each other can build trust, get started by creating your own high-five agreement! 🖐

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