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Teams Built on Trust

September 20, 2011

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology


Many professors believe competence is a pre-requisite for an administrative post. In my view, competence can be mastered but trust cannot.

Trust requires leadership.

The word “competence” means the state or quality of being adequately or well qualified whereas “trust” means firm reliance on the integrity or ability of a person or thing.

Competence is a matter of training; trust, a matter of character.

Ideally, we want both in administration and support staff. Teamwork requires competence and trust so that we can address issues with the collective skills, experience and acumen of several people rather than one or a few.

Problems arise when team members become concerned about whose duty was usurped or whose recommendation was applied over another’s.

That happens on occasion in every shop. It happens rarely in mine, but when it does, I intercede early by affirming the competence of each individual and then request that they find common ground to rebuild confidence in each other.

I make the point that leadership is not a top-down phenomenon.

I am proud of my administrative team, not only because of its competence, but especially because the trust we have in each other.

Competence without trust often results in team members withholding knowledge or experience when addressing an issue. Problems usually become more serious because colleagues cannot apply their collective knowledge as freely as they might.

Trust without competence can be overcome because one team member compensates for another’s lack of skill or experience. That is why trust trumps competence in administration and support staff.

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