How to Build a High-Functioning Team by Breaking the Trust Barrier


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"Breaking the Trust Barrier: How Leaders Close the Gaps for High Performance" is a no-holds guide to hacking powerful team performance. Written by a fighter pilot with experience in managing teams who risked their lives every day, his book covers the fundamentals you need to address that your team doesn't fall by the wayside.

How to Build a High-Functioning Team by Breaking the Trust Barrier

High-functioning teams are a business owner’s dream, yet rarely are the rule. This is partly the reason for the continued content on teamwork. After all of these years, you would think that we’re smart enough to understand “teamwork”.

Yet, we still struggle.

Teamwork problems don’t always appear on the surface. When they do appear, it’s often too late. The delivery is late, the invoice isn’t paid, or the business erodes.

Col. J.V. Venable, a real “Top Gun” pilot and commander of Air Force Thunderbirds, believes we can prevent this if we are aware of how gaps in trust start.



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What is Breaking the Trust Barrier About?

According to Breaking the Trust Barrier, the big idea behind superior teamwork is actively preventing things that can drag a team down. These things that draw a team down create gaps in your team that are harder to fix over time. The way to fill in these “gaps”, according to Col. Venable, is by building trust. Building that trust requires crossing the “trust barrier”. The “trust barrier” is the invisible line between compliance and loyalty. It is the reason that employees in the book We Are Market Basket risked their wages in favor of the CEO who they felt best embodied their values.

To cross that barrier, Venable says leaders need to create a “draft”. In other words, they need to invest in lifting their team instead of letting inertia drag them down. “Drafting”, a term borrowed from Venable’s flight days, is the upward motion created by a team. It is the reason for the V-shaped flight formation in birds. Essentially, the lead bird creates a path through space. As the trailing birds close the gap, everyone reaches a speed faster than they could do on their own.

Using this analogy, Venable suggests leaders can develop this “draft” through formal (orientation policies, etc.) and informal (such as workplace rituals) activities in the work environment. These activities should be refined to integrate new members and reinforce dedication among current members. Venable’s book shares the simple ways that leaders can put this into place (such as setting up group challenges) to get a team flying higher than they ever expected.

Colonel J.V. Venable (retired), is a real “Top Gun” (graduate of the United States Air Force’s Fighter Weapons School), a cancer survivor, and former commander of the USAF Thunderbirds, in addition to leading flight operations during the Iraq War.

In short, this guy really knows how to fly a plane.

What Was Best About Breaking the Trust Barrier?

The best part about the book is the simple approach that Venable brings to teamwork. Instead of getting tangled up in abstract concepts, Breaking the Trust Barrier focuses readers on the fundamental concepts needed to get the job done. Because Venable had to apply these principles firsthand during his military career, he provides the authoritative experience that readers might want to pay attention to.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

Beyond the Trust Barrier, while seemingly a “cure-all” for difficulties in the team building process, does not address some of  the complicated challenges of teamwork and collaboration. It focuses squarely on providing a few suggestions for leaders to address better team performance. The book, for example, suggests that readers develop an onboarding policy with checkpoints, but doesn’t delve far enough into the logistics for readers who may want to follow this advice.

Why Read Breaking the Trust Barrier?

If you were inspired by “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, Going Beyond the Trust Barrier might be an additional read to consider. The book, like “Extreme Ownership”, is steeped in military stories and lingo. The difference is in the approach toward leadership. In “Going Beyond the Trust Barrier”, the focus is on the many different aspects of building the perfect team as a leader. “Extreme Ownership” focuses on leader empowerment to build the perfect team.

The book is also a good read if you are a leader in a new situation. It delves into the dynamics of gaining your team’s trust and respect, two essential things for a successful leadership transition. Venable provides particularly insightful stories and shrewd advice on how to deal with that. Using the book, a leader going into this situation could have a greater understanding of the bigger picture.

1 Comment ▼

Charles Franklin


Charles Franklin Charles Franklin is a Book Reviewer for Small Business Trends. He has a background as a professional reviewer, and is also a content provider and customer relations professional.

One Reaction

  1. Aira Bongco

    I think that trust is very important when it comes to human relationships. So doing this will not only improve your team’s performance but also improve your relationships with them.

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