Beyond Trust Falls

Going Beyond
Trust Falls:
Shared Adversity Builds Team Cohesion

Shared adversity builds team cohesion. People in the military know it. So do coaches and athletes involved in competitive team sports. It’s the whole reason ropes challenge courses can be found nearly everywhere. And it’s likely the origin behind the infamous trust fall.

The idea is that when people come together and share a physical or mental stress, they form a close group bond. Get people outside their collective comfort zones in a situation where they must depend on each other, and you get a boost in trust and teamwork.

There are superficial ways of creating team cohesion.

They work, but for how long? When people go back to their separate departments, how quickly does the ropes course experience fade? Does an artificially contrived fall backwards into the arms of your coworkers have any lasting value? (If you can’t tell, I’m doubtful these are the right ways to build team cohesion.)

So, what’s a more lasting way to improve and sustain the energy, teamwork, and trust that your people have when they truly come together? Learning a new skill. Stumbling and learning and laughing together at how hard it is to do a simple thing well is an effective way to build team cohesion.

It’s important to use the right skill to build team cohesion. It should introduce adversity and require people to work together through the situation. One example is learning the skill of coaching.

Coaching may seem like an easy skill to learn. After all, we all know how to listen and ask questions. How hard can it be to coach someone to their own solution, rather than telling them what to do or giving advice? As it turns out, it’s very hard! That’s why asking leaders to coach can be a great opportunity for building team cohesion.

Here are two more tips for using shared adversity to build team cohesion.

Choose an unfamiliar skill.

To truly create shared adversity, you want everyone to be on an equal playing field. That means choosing an unfamiliar or uncomfortable skill for people to learn.

For example, coaching is an unfamiliar skillset for many leaders. Most aren’t skilled in the art of coaching. A leader’s natural comfort zone is giving advice and solving problems. But coaching asks leaders to step outside that comfort zone. A coach listens deeply and asks probing questions to open up the thinking of another person.

Align the adversity to organizational goals.

Building team cohesion is great. Building team cohesion that positively impacts one or more organizational goals is even better. Make sure you align the skill that you choose to the strategic milestones of your organization.

Take coaching. Bringing leaders together for the shared adversity of learning to coach together has several positive effects. In addition to increased team cohesion among leadership, there’s the invaluable long-term benefit of creating an environment of high trust and mutual accountability that comes when you establish a culture of coaching. Plus, coaching is one of the most in-demanding leadership skills of the 21st century.

Move beyond trust falls.

When we limit our team-building exercises to arbitrary trust falls and ropes challenge courses, we limit the potential of our teams. By bringing your people together to share the adversity of learning a new, difficult, and impactful skill, you can build lasting team cohesion that provides a powerful boost to your team’s performance.

Want to connect with Tom about coaching? Let’s talk! Give us a call at (859) 415-1000 or drop us a line in the form at the bottom of this page.

Share your email address to get our best performance content delivered to your inbox via our monthly eNewsletter.

Sign me up for high-performance content delivered directly to my inbox.