As I gathered with a team for a Building Trust workshop last weekend, the assistant coach roamed around the room with a small box collecting cell phones. I’ve heard about coaches doing this, but it hadn’t happened at one of my workshops yet. Got me thinking about the impact of technology on relationships.
We’ve experienced the upside. Facebook has connected us with long lost friends and family. Texting makes it easy to communicate basic information quickly. Twitter even saved some lives in the Haiti earthquake.
But for all the benefits, electronic communication alone will not result in strong, healthy, trusting relationships. The youngest of Generation Y (born after 1990 and referred to by Tim Elmore as Generation iY) seem to lack patience as well as listening and conflict resolution skills—all of which are required to build relational trust.
I’ve noticed, however, that when given the opportunity to connect face-to-face, young people do engage. In fact, the high school and college teams I work with share with courage and vulnerability. Seems that it’s less a function of willingness and more a response to environment.
Our world is moving so fast, we must proactively work to slow it down and create an atmosphere for the individuals on our teams to feel comfortable sharing. Three practical ways you can do this on your team:
Model the behavior you want. If you want your team to put their phones away and talk to one another, show them how. Refuse to check your phone when you are in the middle of an in-person conversation. Answer it when your athlete or co-worker is in the midst of a heartfelt disclosure and you can bet they won’t readily open up to you again.
Institute tech-free zones. Make team functions tech-free zones. Meals together, game nights, bus rides—make some of these tech-free times and opportunities to interact face-to-face. Keep it playful and your team may not even notice the absence of their tech toys.
Ask questions. Your team members want to know that you care about more than just their performance. Take time to ask them about their families, dreams and experiences. People like to talk about themselves, and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn! Can’t think of what to ask? Check out these great questions.
Building trusting relationships isn’t hard, but it takes time. If you want a trusting team it’s going to take intentional time, effort and creativity.