To Build Trust, Risk Being Candid

Search Google Books on trust and candor and the first listings you’ll get are business examples. Why? Because for a Team to respond agilely, we need to be candid with each other and have a basic trust in each other. Naturally, we’ve all experienced being on a Team where this wasn’t the case, and our whole Team was held back as a result.

To Build Trust, Risk Being CandidBeing candid with each other means communicating and acting in a sincere, upright way: in other words, being open! Interestingly, the word candid has the same Latin root as the word candle: something that shines. So when we’re candid, we shine light in a direct, unfiltered way on what we see–we don’t “hide our light under a basket,”[1] as the saying goes. Candid communication drives agility because whatever my Teammate sees, he shares with me, so I see too, and together we’re able to respond and adapt.

If you think about the less-than-ideal Teams you’ve been on, you might be tempted to say, “Well, I would have spoken my mind but nobody did because we didn’t trust each other enough.” But is that really the way it works? Can we only afford to be candid once we’ve established trust on a Team?

Trust Is A Byproduct Of Being Candid

I’m going to argue that the opposite is true: trust isn’t a prerequisite, it’s a byproduct of taking the risk to be candid. And it’s a real risk: we may get shot down in a meeting, we may give it our all and still not be listened to. No risk, no growth, just more of the same!

To build trust by being candid, the Team should:

  • Write up working agreements
    The ScrumMaster or Team Leader[2] needs to help the Team write up its “social contract” about how we communicate with each other and work together. What are our ground rules? What do we expect from each other?
  • Hold everyone accountable
    Once we’ve got clear agreements, the ScrumMaster or Team leader needs to hold Team members accountable[3] for keeping them, prompting us when we slip, or revising what we’ve committed to.
  • Walk the talk
    The Team Leader must to model the behaviors he or she is advocating!

Take The Risk To Be Candid

Build Trust, Risk Being CandidTrust is built on a Team through repeated experiences of taking the risk to be candid with each other about what is or isn’t happening; what is or isn’t working. Not every risk to be open in a Team meeting will be successful, and for sure it won’t always be comfortable. But the only way to form a Team is to work through difficulties together–up until then, we’re just a collection of individuals.

As a Team takes risks, takes ownership of its shared agreements, and gains trust, their collaboration becomes more powerful, and the Team becomes able to respond to changing circumstances with greater Agility[4]. Until that Team spirit catches fire, the ScrumMaster or Team Leader is the trustee of the Team’s Agility; safeguarding the process and prompting, directing, coaching, and facilitating the Team toward greater collaboration.

Ready to take the risk to be candid
(and build Team trust)?
Learn how Scrum Handbook can help get you there.

As Always. Stay Agile.

Notes and Sources

1 Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. S.v. “hide light under a bushel.” Retrieved February 1, 2018 from

2-4 “ScrumMaster or Team Leader,” “Accountable,” “Agility.” Accessed February 1, 2017.