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  • Writer's pictureBrent Stromwall

The Ideal Team Has Joy-based Trust

Much has been written describing the ultimate team – one that is cohesive, aligned around common goals, and achieves outstanding results. Perhaps you’ve been blessed enough to work in and with such a team, maybe even led such a team. More than likely, all the other teams you’ve worked in have fallen short of this ideal. Most of us have experienced in-fighting, criticism, negativity, posturing, politicking, energy drain, and all varieties of dysfunction in the teams with which we work. The outcomes usually include lackluster results and departures of several people whose feelings were hurt or who just gave up trying to appease others.

The greatest role a leader of any team has is to create and nurture joy-based trust. There are other types of trust – performance-based and vulnerability-based – which are also extremely valuable. However, without joy-based trust, a team will not be most effective. Only when joy-based trust exists will a team achieve extraordinary results.

Performance-based trust is what most leaders spend their time working on to achieve results. This is all about trusting that someone is reliable and will perform as expected – complete what they said when they said they would get it done. It requires creating alignment in the team about the common goals, what those goals are (e.g. SMART goals), establishing responsibilities and roles (e.g. RACI diagrams), and following up with schedules and calendars to measure progress and hold people accountable. These tasks are all very methodical, logical, and left-brain intensive work. I call this management, not leadership (read more: Leadership vs Management).

Vulnerability-based trust is something fewer leaders try to achieve as well. They recognize that when this trust exists people are more likely to share their weaknesses and mistakes, recognize the strengths of others, and learn to rely on them. This enhances the division of labor by leveraging the strengths and gifts of each team member. Many teams conduct trust-building exercises regularly to nurture trust in the team and ensure the team is “healthy.” But when one person gets triggered and has an outburst, trust within the team falls apart. Establishing vulnerability-based trust is all about behavior, choices, analysis, and recognizing strengths – and, again, all left-brain intensive effort.

Joy-based trust is not left-brained. Joy is an emotion someone feels when they are in a healthy relationship with another human being. Joy is the emotion you feel when someone else is genuinely glad to be with you. And joy is relational – not based on logic, words, choices, reliability, or behavior. Joy is realized when “Level 4” is on in the right side of the brain. (To understand joy, it is important to understand how the two sides of your brain operate. Refer to this article for more, Logical or Relational: The Biology of Relational Circuits.) Processing in the left side of your brain is slow in comparison to the right side. The left side is about logic, words, analysis, management, reasoning, and problem-solving. All of these are very important when it comes to results and performance. Focusing merely on those tasks, however, limits the performance of any team. Why? Because every team is made up of people.

People are designed as relational beings. In fact, people thrive in healthy relationships. And healthy relationships are established in the right side of your brain – the emotional, pain-processing, relational part of your brain. The right side of your brain recognizes who is important to you, whether they’re good or bad for you, and if you can be yourself with them (being the true, best version of yourself). The right side also recognizes whether or not they want to be with you and are genuinely glad to be with you. All of this occurs in milliseconds and at a rate that is faster than the left side of the brain can process.

Referring back to the Logical or Relational article, when you are employing both the left side and the right side of your brain, you are in joy and “synchronized.” You are operating in a state where we are all designed to operate – healthy and in joy. You are optimizing both the relational and the logical functions of your brain, all 5 levels are “on,” and you are at your best. When everyone on the team is synchronized, the team is achieving extraordinary results while enjoying themselves and each other. This team is not just being highly effective, they are in joy knowing that everyone else is genuinely glad to be with them.

Joy must be present for you and all the members of your team to have the greatest experience and achieve extraordinary results. Without joy, everyone is operating at slower speeds and outside of any healthy relationship. So, how do you achieve joy in teams? Read my articles on this website. I am committing my leadership time and energy to help all of my clients live in joy, as well as all who want to have true joy in their lives.

Or, let's talk. I’d welcome the opportunity to talk with you more about this one-on-one. You can schedule a call with me here.


I have to give credit for a good portion of this insight to my friend and mentor Barbara Moon, who patiently invests in me weekly using her book, Joy-filled Relationships.

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