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  • Writer's pictureDr. CK Bray

Teams, Trust, and Your Brain at Work

Imagine you're on a team at work. You've got the talent, the tools, and the time. But somehow, things just aren't clicking. It's like trying to start a campfire with wet wood—it's possible, but it's going to take a lot of extra effort.


That's what Richard Markham, a psychologist who knows a thing or two about how teams tick, noticed. He's seen that, more often than not, teams struggle. Why? Well, it's like when everyone wants to take the credit, but only a few do the heavy lifting, or when it's not clear what the team's aiming for—it can grind down all the good stuff that comes from working together.


In a chat with folks at the Harvard Business Review, Markham threw in a reality check. He said sure, teams have the potential to do amazing things—but don't bet the farm on it. Turns out, most teams don't hit the mark, even when they've got everything they need.


So, what's tripping them up? Trust. It's the secret sauce. Without it, things fall apart.


But here's the cool part: we can actually measure trust. How? Through a little thing called oxytocin. It's a chemical our bodies make that's all about trust. In one experiment, people took a whiff of oxytocin from a nasal spray, and just like that, they were willing to trust their cash with someone they'd just met.


Turns out stress ruins the party for oxytocin. When we're stressed, we make less of it, and that makes it tough to build trust with others. This is important because it explains why some teams are like a well-oiled machine while others are more like a car that keeps stalling.


There's something else that makes a big difference: taking turns. When everyone gets a chance to chime in, people feel like they count. They feel secure and valued. But if someone's hogging the conversation or people keep getting cut off, it doesn't feel so great. It's like being at a dinner party where only one person does all the talking. No fun, right? And when people don't feel valued, trust takes a nosedive. That's why in the best teams, everyone gets their moment in the spotlight. It's not just about being polite; it's about making sure everyone's on board and feeling good. When that happens, trust grows, and that's when teams really start to shine.


For more information, check out Paul Zak, a professor at Claremont University and an expert in trust.





Cover of book How To Raise Remarkable Kids Without Talking To Them


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