You had me at hello!

Yes, Jerry McGuire is one of my all-time favourite movies. I am an unabashed fan of that movie. Let us get that out of the way.

The deeper question that I am pondering is: Why is it that some people we come across in life have us at hello… while most others don’t?

  • Is it some strange thing called “chemistry?” The very thought of those formulas back from school days makes me nauseous though.
  • Is it a “personal equation?” Whatever does that really mean?!
  • Is it “physical appearance?”… by that count all the good-looking women I have ever come across should be my beer buddies.
  • Some people suggest it is “past life karma.” Let’s just say “pass” to that.

But dissecting every such friend who has come into my life (and I have been lucky to have been blessed with many such), though each of them is as different from each other as chalk and cheese, if there is a common streak between all of us, it is this:

  • The things we feel are important in life are very similar.
  • The things we are intolerant about are also very similar.

Though the interesting thing is, we did not realise these above two points until much later in our relationship. And yet we “vibed.” Perhaps it is our brain doing the much talked about “micro-slicing” that Malcolm Gladwell had talked about in his wonderful book Blink, and flashing the “thumbs up” sign to us mentally.

Being in the organization development area, it was much later that I stumbled upon the fact that this is what we call as a “values match,” a condition wherein someone values the same things and has similar red lines on behaviours as us.

Unfortunately though, our brains are not yet evolved to a stage where they can instinctively and consistently show the “thumbs up” or the “thumbs down” sign in every interaction, which is why we sometimes rue it when we get taken for a ride – “that person had me at hello!”

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If a “value match” can create so much synergy though, shouldn’t we be exploring more ways to make it happen in the teams that we are a part of? (Instead of leaving it all to the “microslicing” capabilities of our brains.)

Working with different corporate teams over the years, one of the biggest insights we have gained is that for team members to build trust amongst each other, leaving it to chance or microslicing or gut feel is a bad idea. That is because the natural way that most of us think about trust is that – when we trust someone deeply, we will feel safe to share our vulnerabilities with him or her. But the truth is counterintuitive.

The route to building trust passes through vulnerability. Once team members tread the seemingly scary road of being vulnerable with each other through sharing their deepest values, their idiosyncrasies, maybe even their fears and insecurities, they suddenly become more “trust-worthy” in each other’s eyes. It is as if the ironclad defences have just melted away, and the “real human” inside has been sighted!

There are caveats though on how an exercise like this is run in a team. Done well, teams emerge energised and much more cohesive. Done not so competently, it can breed cynicism or in a best case scenario for the team, just be a meaningless exercise that does nothing at all to the team dynamics.

A values exploration journey is one of the foundational steps in building trust in teams and in relationships. Trust in a team does not happen by chance or through inevitability. “Form a team and eventually team members will begin trusting each other,” is as bad a piece of advice as someone saying, “Shaadi kar lo, pyaar tho ho hi jayega!”

If you are leading a team, you owe it to your team to get on this journey of making trust happen through applying thought and intent.

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Are you doing it, or are you just hoping to have people at hello?