Be Human: Build Trust with Deeper Listening and Empathy

This is the second post in a mini-series about High Performance via Psychological Safety Addressed by Scrum Master. In the previous post, I introduced the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team workshop and in this post, I am going to share with you a workshop focusing on the “Absence of Trust” dysfunction.

Why This Workshop?

Lean/Agile team members are implored to respect each other as capable, independent and trustworthy people. For the environment to be safe all team members must be known to practice respect. Nevertheless, Dysfunctions in a team do exist, and the first dysfunction introduced in my previous post is the Absence of Trust!

For Whom?

As a Scrum Master, Team Leader, Team Member, I invite you through this workshop to a unique immersive experience with your peers to learn collectively on the first team dysfunction “Absence of Trust” and let’s unleash the power of the collective wisdom!

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Create bridges between peers through nonverbal expression
  • Practice deeper listening and empathy with colleagues
  • Stop counterproductive activities and anti-trust behaviors to make space for better collaboration
  • Get practical and imaginative help from colleagues immediately

Step By Step Description

While designing this workshop (see be-human-agenda poster) I had in mind one driver: engage all the attendees and unleash their collective wisdom.

Workshop Design Notes: I used some Liberating Structures, as building blocks for this workshop. You will find at the end of this post more details and links to the Liberating Structures formats that I have used.

The workshop’s structure follows a 3-phases creativity process. A short 10 min retrospective could be added to the end.

  1. Opening [40 min]: What is better than storytelling to connect the participants each to another. I invite participants to draw their professional journey until today using only five symbols.
  2. Exploring [55 min]: The exploring phase is twofold. First, experiment empathy thanks HSR (Heard Seen Respected) and second, use TRIZ to search for ways to make progress on our deepest purpose “building trust“.
  3. Closing [45 min]: A powerful closing for the workshop could be a “Help me Now” activity: Troika Consulting. Participants will get insights on issues they face and will benefit from unleashing collective wisdom for addressing them.

Drawing Together

The playful spirit of Drawing Together signals that more is possible. Drawing helps people access hidden knowledge such as feelings, attitudes, and patterns that are difficult to express with words.

The Five Symbols
  1. [5 min] Invite participants to practice drawing (use 5-symbols template) the five symbols: circle, rectangle, triangle, spiral, star person.
  2. [10 min] Invite participants to combine the symbols to create the first draft of their professional journey (use professional journey template), working individually and without words.
  3. [10 min] Invite participants to create a second draft, in which they refine their story by dramatizing the size, placement, and color of the symbols.
  4. [10 min] Ask participants to pair with another individual to interpret their drawings. Remind them that the person who has done the drawing does not speak.
  5. [5 min] Ask the whole group, “Together, what do the drawings reveal?” 
Screenshots of some Professional journeys by Scrum Masters (Anonymously shared)

In the following Steps, you are going to use the trust in action template to log your notes

Heard Seen Respected

“Walking in the shoes” of others helps to foster the empathetic capacity of participants. Many situations do not have immediate answers or clear resolutions. Recognizing these situations and responding with empathy can improve the “cultural climate” and build trust among group members. HSR ( Heard Seen Respected ) helps individuals learn to respond in ways that do not overpromise or overcontrol.

  1. [3 min] Introduce the purpose of HSR: to practice listening without trying to fix anything or make any judgments.
  2. [15 min] With a partner, tell a story about a time when you were NOT heard, seen or respected. 7 minutes for each story.
    1. When listening, don’t try to fix anything. Only ask questions if needed (e.g., what else, go on, tell me more)
  3. [7 min] In groups of 4 to 8, use What, So What, Now What? to reflect on the experience:
    1. What did it feel like to tell my story; what did it feel like to listen to your story?
    2. What patterns are revealed in the stories? What importance do you assign to the pattern? (use the trust-in-action template)


TRIZ makes it possible to challenge sacred cows safely and encourages heretical thinking. The question “What must we stop doing to make progress on our deepest purpose?” induces seriously fun yet very courageous conversations.

Now it is time to face the challenges revealed by the patterns observed throughout the HSR.

Follow the three-step process:

  1. [10 min] First alone, then in your small group compile a list of to-do’s in answer to: How can I/we reliably build a trust-less environment? (use trust-in-action template)
  2. [10 min] First alone, then in your group, go down your list and ask: Is there anything we are doing that resembles in any shape or form to-do’s on our list? Make a second list of those activities and talk about their impact. Be unforgiving. (use the trust-in-action template)
  3. [10 min] First alone, then in your group, compile the list of what needs to be stopped. Take one item at a time and ask: How am I and how are we going to stop it? What is your first move? Be concrete as you can. Identify who else is needed to stop the activity or behavior. (use the trust-in-action template)

TROIKA Consulting

Troika Consulting is always there for the asking for any individual who wishes to get help from colleagues or friends.

Now it is time to get help from other peers on how to stop some activities, or how to change a behavior?

  1. [3 min] Form groups of three ( two roles: client and consultant)
  2. [3 min] Invite participants to reflect on the consulting question they plan to ask when they try to be clients.
  3. [13 min] per consulting iteration:
    1. [2 min] Client, spend 2 minutes sharing your action ideas
    2. [2 min] Consultants ask the client clarifying questions.
    3. The client turns around with his or her back facing the consultants
    4. [7 min] Together, the consultants generate ideas, suggestions, coaching advice.
    5. [2 min] The client turns around and shares what was most valuable about the experience. (use the trust-in-action template to log the feedback)
    6. Groups switch to the next person and repeat steps.


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Liberating Structures developed by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.