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Frequently Asked Questions


Our team is having a rough time agreeing on what our trust level is. It's a small group (five people). Two think we are +1, three of us think we are 0 or even -1 some of the time. We're stuck!

It's not unusual for teams to have some disagreement over trust levels, but when they get stuck, it's often a sign that hidden or unacknowledged issues are at stake. These can include image and reputation and a misunderstanding that rating at 0 (null) is negative (It's not -- most teams actually are in the null range). We naturally want to see ourselves as effective and to "score well." The solution is in focusing more on where the team would like to go and action steps to help it along. Try working on a short written vision of a team everyone in the group would like to participate in. Bring out and summarize stories of great teams people have been part of in the past. Then move to one or two things each person would like to do to help themselves and help the current team progress toward its vision. Come back to the Survey later, after other trust work has been done by the group.

Our team has been working on trust for some time and we are much more open with each other, but we really are not that supportive. This is consistent with the large, more or less impersonal organization we work in. Our ratings on the question for Appreciation and Affirmation aren't great! How do we overcome our tendency not to openly recognize or support each other?

Being surrounded by a more impersonal culture can be a challenge for teams that want to deviate from the norm. It can involve taking risks for both individuals and the group as a whole. Talk together about two aspects of the dilemma: (1) penalties people may suffer for being too open in their praise, recognition and support of others; and (2) why you might want to "mutiny" against these penalties -- or at least take a more reasonable approach!. Then brainstorm how/when you especially want to combat or ignore the default culture of the larger workplace and how you want to honor and affirm your team (and its individual members) for being different.

In some of our team meetings, some members have been pretty open about their concerns and complaints, and this seems to have a "withering effect" on others in our team who are intimidated. We have tried to make it okay and encourage people to join in, but they say they are too concerned about retaliation for disagreeing. What do we do? Our team rating was between 0 and -1, and the lowest ratings on the questions had to do with "Dealing with Tough Issues."

Although it is fashionable in some organizations to promote openness to the point of abrasiveness, the fact is team members often need to find bridges between more direct and indirect styles. This is particularly important when different cultural backgrounds and styles of upbringing are involved. Instead of reducing this to a "right way" or "wrong way" problem (and arguing over it), focus on what each person's style positively contributes. The longer such arguments go on, the less influence people generally have and the more mistrust that will have a chance to enter. Instead, acknowledge that neither style always works and commit to a few small compromises in style to become more open or more tactful as the relationship and situation requires. Look for a specific "sensitive issue" or "undiscussable" where the team as a whole can try out these behaviors and enable each person to get feedback about better ways he/she can communicate.

We think we are collaborating but then discover that someone doesn't follow-up on an agreement after a meeting. People get angry about it but never say anything directly to the person who doesn't follow-up.

This behavior is common and also right at the cross-over point between 0 and -1, pulling it toward the lower ratings. There is a good chance the problem is with your decision-making, consensus building process. Establish ground rules and bring this situation to light in the group after having developed consent to do so from those who are not following through. I've seen many situations where a person has every intention of following up but isn't good at saying "no, I can't do it" for fear of being perceived as uncommitted, less than fully competent, or not a team player. Focus on limits -- what it's not okay to do -- and support -- how to help the those whose behavior and words are inconsistent.

The Survey seems to say that clear roles and accountabilities won't get a team further than the 0 trust level. Why is that? The way I grew up, that was all that was ever expected.

In the past, the culture of hierarchies was based on the belief that if every person just did his or her individual job, then the organization and its customers would be fine. This reflected a belief in military style organization and also a philosophy of individualism. While this is generally recognized as a limited perspective, it is still a deeply embedded part of how we feel and sense our accountabilities and is not likely to go away soon. It can be useful to consider about how people grow beyond simply being accountable, learning to embrace their broader responsibilities for leadership and the creation of workplaces that have a strong sense of engagement and community.


I am an engineering manager in a profit making organization and would like to use the survey with my team. Do I need to register and pay for this use?

It's a free use. Whether you can use the survey for free depends on your role, not whether your organization is for-profit or not-for-profit. If you use the survey as part of a professional role providing services to others such as HR or Organization Development, including internal consulting, training, facilitation, coaching or advising, you should register your use. If you are a manager whose primary role has nothing to do with providing these professional services, it entirely free.


I am a HR Director who would like to use the survey with the team of people who report to me. Our jobs do involve providing HR services. Is this a free use or not?


It's a free use because you are using it within the context of your own team, rather than in the context of providing HR services to others.


I am an HR Advisor to my organization. Can I simply refer managers to the survey or give them a copy without this being a registered use?


Yes, of course, so long as this does not involve coaching, consulting, advising, or facilitation with the leader or team who might be using the survey. If you do find yourself in any of those roles, you should register your use.


As an external consultant, I work most often in strategic planning and solely with non-profit organizations, government agencies and schools. May I use the survey for free?


If you providing team development, coaching, or facilitation services as part of your professional work, and you are being paid for it, you should register your use of the survey. This would be true whether or not team development is a major part of your work or your clients are not-for-profit organizations.


I am a professional facilitator who has been asked to assist with a retreat. The manufacturing team I will be working with wants to have a discussion of the Team Trust Survey -- which I did not introduce to them. Do they or do I need to register?


As the facilitator providing support to the team, you should register your use. Once you do so, you can assist any team with the survey and advertise your use of it as part of your professional service package.

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