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X-Raying the Team to Discover What Lack of Trust is Doing to Them

The category: Multi-cultural teams, Trust, WorldWork Blog, WorldWork Case Studies

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Are your teams delivering high performance? Trust is the foundation for high-performing teams and an organisation with low trust will pay the price.

John Keary of Keary Harper, and WorldWork’s Certified Consultant has written this article to illustrate how the Team Trust Indicator (TTI) helped a major international bank and its top teams solve their trust issues, resulting in a ‘charter’ on how the team members will work with each other in the future, and a roadmap to improved performance.

This infographic explains what the TTI tool is.

John’s story…

One day I received a phone call from WorldWork, asking if I can help a global finance team with trust-related challenges. The bank had grown from a network of local retail branches in a European country to a fast-growing financial services group in key regions of the World, including Latin America, Asia and Europe.

The team was 15 people with ultimate responsibility for the profitability of regional markets and for key group-wide functions such as IT, Finance and HR. They ‘met’ several times a year virtually, and at least once, face to face. Some were on the Main Board but, effectively, this was the Executive Committee running the business day-to-day. They discussed a wide range of topics and recently included global talent management on the agenda.

Between them they spoke several Asian languages plus Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch and German; the common language was English. About half were expatriates and the rest locally recruited. The team was set up 5 years ago and had doubled in size. There was no ‘chair’ or leader: it relied on a collegiate approach.

Dominique, the head of HR, and Fons, VP Finance were having a working dinner with Nelson, the COO of Brazil-based in São Paulo. It wasn’t going well. “You take one of my key people and put a big chunk of my profit totally at risk”, exploded Nelson. “How does this make sense? How can I trust succession planning if you use it at HQ to steal my best talent?” The group succession plan that they had all signed off had identified the Brazilian COO Retail as a rising star. The plan was to second her to Frankfurt for 2-3 years to groom her for a key position at Group HQ. This was the first time Nelson had heard about the plan.

However, it wasn’t the first time Dominique had felt despair about the way the global team now operated: misunderstandings, concealing the truth and unpleasant arguments had become normal. Nobody seemed to trust anybody now. She decided it was time for radical action. Googling ‘team’ and ‘trust’ brought up lots of links, but one caught her eye: WorldWork Ltd. She phoned them and quickly got a meeting. They explained how their Team Trust Indicator (TTI) tool worked. Dominique felt that this was an objective way to try to address what was going wrong – and put it right. She spoke to each team member, explaining her proposal, and then WorldWork sent all 15 a confidential questionnaire to complete online. One of their team meetings was coming up – and this was the only item on the agenda.

The boardroom was at the top of the bank’s tower block, looking out across the home city and beyond to the sea and the distant horizon. One could have heard a pin drop. Phones were switched off and all eyes were on Dominique and me. They had listened patiently as I explained how the TTI works:

“It uses 45 behavioural indicators to find out how important each of these trust criteria is to you as an individual i.e. which are your most important wants. It also works out a rating for what you think you get from your colleagues – the team. The differences between want and get scores on each of the 9 criteria are averaged for the whole team. We look for patterns in these overall gaps as an objective basis for discussing existing levels of trust – and how they might be improved. Obviously, the bigger the gaps, the more you as a team need to focus on them. Your top three – and they are very clear gaps – are Openness with Information, Aligned and Inclusive – in that order”.

There was a long silence. Then Fons intervened, “OK, so what does this mean, in practice?”

Figure 1. Average ‘Want’ and ‘Get’ Scores                  for a Team (example)Figure 2. Average Trust Criteria ‘Gap’ Scores                              for a Team (example)


“If you remember”, I replied, “you each had the opportunity to write comments in the questionnaire. Here is a small, unattributed selection:

  • asymmetrical information; different things for different audiences
  • lack of transparency; hidden agendas
  • lack of shared purpose; no common goals
  • pursuing local goals at the expense of global ones
  • lack of interaction outside of formal meetings.”

Dominique led the discussion that followed. At times, it was heated and threatened to spin out of control. Eventually, it cohered around potential action – and individual responsibilities and contributions. The whole process had been cathartic, but the team emerged re-focused and with fresh energy.

As Max from Djakarta said, “If Dominique hadn’t challenged us to take a long, cool look at ourselves we would have become even more dysfunctional and the team would likely have broken up. The TTI helped us be objective about ourselves. We have a profound change in our markets, and we have to take tough decisions about the organisation and our people. Yet, for the first time, I feel I can trust my senior colleagues – we are all pulling in the same direction. Now, despite all the hard stuff we have to do, mostly remotely, we can still find time to enjoy interacting with each other and value each others’ contributions.”

The TTI works in a wide range of situations to shine a powerful light on a team in order to improve its performance and effectiveness. International teams present the obvious challenges of different languages and cultural assumptions. Other WorldWork’s consultants and I have found that the TTI is equally powerful for enhancing the performance of mono-cultural teams. This case also demonstrates how ‘virtual working’ can be enhanced – a challenge many teams have been faced with in recent times.

Would you like to add TTI to your toolbox?

If you aren’t yet certified to use TTI then consider the next Certification Programme – register your interest here. There is also an opportunity for our existing TTI Consultants to take the course again as a refresher – contact us at


*This case study is based on a real organisation, but details have been substantially changed to preserve confidentiality.

Author: John Keary, APECS Accredited Executive Coach at Keary Harper LLP | Editor: Gabriela Weglowska, WorldWork Ltd.