Yann Toutant: How to Build Trust Between Your Teammates?

In this episode, Richard interviews Yann Toutant, President of the French Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands, startup advisor, and manager at Toucan Toco. Yann tells us about the importance of building trust and understanding between your team members and how to do it. When you finish listening to the episode, make sure to connect with Yann on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Richard: (00:10)
Hi friends. Welcome back to With Great People. The podcast for high performance teams. I’m Richard Kasperowski. When choosing friends, we usually look at the traits that make us feel good, warmth, empathy, trustworthiness, camaraderie. But when building professional relationships, we’re led to believe that these traits are unimportant, even undesirable. In this episode, I talk with Yann Toutant, President of the French Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands, startup advisor and manager at Toucan Toco about how to build relationships of deep trust and understanding between your team members.

Richard: (00:45)
Keep listening to learn what Yann thinks is the key element is for such a relationship and I guarantee that you will be surprised. To support this podcast visit my website

Richard: (00:59)
Our special guest today is Yann Toutant. Hi, Yann. How are you?

Yann: (01:03)
Hello. I’m good, thanks.

Richard: (01:06)
Yann, welcome to the show. Will you introduce yourself to our listeners?

Yann: (01:09)
With pleasure. My name Yann Toutant, as you said. I’m a European from France, as you can hear in my accent. My home base is in Amsterdam in Holland. I’ve lived in many countries and for the last five years in Amsterdam. What keeps me busy in my life is the different businesses that I run. I run a company in the I.T. industry. I’m a coach for startups. I’m the President of the French of Chamber Commerce in Holland and a happy father of two teenagers and a happy sailor. And that’s about my activities. That’s what keeps me busy and happy.

Richard: (01:44)
Ooh, so interesting. I have a feeling we’re going to touch on some of these topics throughout the rest of our interview today. So this is the podcast about teams and about people’s best teams so that we can, we can share these experiences with our listeners. What is the best team that you’ve ever been a part of in your entire life?

Yann: (02:04)
That’s a challenging question because I have very much been playing alone in my life. When I look back when I was a teenager or a young boy, all the sports I did were not team sports, but individual sports like Judo or diving or tennis. So the idea of teams came in my life with work, in fact, but not as a young man with a sport, like a lot of people experienced with football or rugby. So I’ve really discovered how to work in teams when I started my career. But funny enough, the best team I’ve been with is a very recent experience. And it’s during a spiritual retreat that I did no later than a month ago in India. And I was among 16 men. And the experience of this team of people was really, really, really mind blowing for me.

Richard: (02:57)
All right. So it’s the team of the 16 men you were with at this retreat?

Yann: (03:02)
Yes, correct. Yeah.

Richard: (03:03)
Fascinating. I want to know more about this retreat and it was so recent. So my next question should be pretty easy. If you took yourself back to this team, just a month ago and re-experienced it, sort of mentally re-experienced it, physically re-experienced it in your body and maybe some sensation comes about your body as you re-experienced being together with that group of people. What is the one word that you would use to describe the sensation of being part of that team?

Yann: (03:34)

Richard: (03:35)

Yann: (03:35)
Warmth. Yeah.

Richard: (03:36)
And what about warmth?

Yann: (03:38)
The feeling of inclusion. The feeling of no jokes about being part of this team. There is no power play. There is no political gain. There is no positioning of members against others. It’s really a warm inclusion where we are here together to reach what we decided without having any decisions based on ego.

Richard: (04:04)
Right. So warmth and inclusion and nothing about ego. What was the purpose of the retreat?

Yann: (04:10)
Oh, this retreat was a very interesting retreat. It was called Being a Man.

Richard: (04:14)

Yann: (04:15)
Yeah. And the principle of this retreat is to say that in the western world, men have difficulties to express their masculinity. And it’s true for women or so, but I was in a men retreat, so I can talk about men. But men have through society a kind of obligation to wear a lot of masks and those masks at a certain time, bring the masculinity and the expression of masculinity to be abused instead of being well broadcasted so to say. So that was the goal of this retreat, how to be in balance with your masculinity.

Richard: (04:48)
All right. And the one word to describe it is warmth. There’s inclusion, there’s no doubt that you’re part of the team. There are no power plays.

Yann: (04:55)

Richard: (04:56)
Is there anything else subjective about the team that you noticed?

Yann: (05:01)
Yeah. What was very strong in this team was the vulnerability.

Richard: (05:08)

Yann: (05:09)
Vulnerability. It’s a key word. And it’s a word that we have the tendency to forget when we work between teams or in a team. It’s to say, guys, I’m not okay, or I don’t know how to do this, or I’m afraid of that. Or I fear that we going to fail, or I… You know. All these things that are natural feelings and thoughts that we can have in a journey we have as a team are very often not put on a table and everybody wants to keep the appearances strong and you know… But in fact, this is not helping if you will hide your fears and your jobs. Because they will, first of all, the fear will express itself by your behavior and your body language. Whereas you will use it as stress.

Yann: (05:54)
So the animals in us will smell the fear in the others without even expressing it. And if it’s not expressed, then it’s being here, it’s being stuffed and it will take some room and we’ll keep some room in your emotional body, so to say. And this room will not be available for the success and for the pleasure for the alignments. So expressing the fear is fear. I mean, fear, but more than that, but I would say what we call the negative feelings and emotions. It’s very important to express them, put them on a table. And then very often, only expressing them will help to solve them or to get them smaller than we make them in our minds. And some of the team members say, yeah but look, if you do this, this and this it’s gone and oh yeah, of course. And then you have a different angle and then the fear is gone. So the vulnerability, which I would even wrap up to a larger concept, which I’ve experienced, it’s the brotherhood.

Richard: (06:54)
The brotherhood.

Yann: (06:55)
The brotherhood. How can we in this team support each other, help each other to make sure that the best and the maximum of our potential is being expressed.

Richard: (07:08)
Yeah. And for vulnerability, I love the way you describe it. It’s not just, somebody says be more vulnerable. There are specific behaviors that go along with that. It’s noticing your own fears so there’s some self-awareness. What are you afraid of? What are you missing? What do you want help with? And then saying it out loud to the others around you. And then this idea of brotherhood, rather than just let’s have more brotherhood. What concretely does that look like? How do we do that?

Yann: (07:36)
Yeah. The brother is first of all, to find someone who you dare to share very personal aspects that you would not dare to share with someone else. And what makes a brother a brother is that you have the confidence that the discussion you will have with this person will remain between us, as well. And second, you have the confidence that this person has enough experience, maturity, intelligence to welcome your vulnerability and not obviously to a have quick fix for you. You know, not saying, okay, do this, this, this, and it’s okay, let’s go. No, it’s to create this person. The brothers creates a container in which you feel safe to express without looking for solutions. So the brother has no expectation. There’s nothing to expect from him when he gives the space and his container. There’s nothing in return to be expected. So if I am the one who is in this position of offering my brotherhood, it just offering my experience, my space to help someone to just lend some vulnerability in this container.

Richard: (08:43)

Yann: (08:43)
Yeah. That’s strong.

Richard: (08:48)
It strong. That is strong. And I’m looking at you through the video screen and sort of feeling this sympathetic feeling. Sort of feeling what you felt, that brotherhood sensation. It’s really beautiful. Is there anything else subjective that goes into knowing this was the best team of your life or object of anything that an outsider could observe and they would say, yes, that is definitely a great team.

Yann: (09:11)
Yeah. There is this component of trust that is to me, a very important factor. Let me give you my definition of trust.

Richard: (09:20)

Yann: (09:21)
What I believe trust is, and I’ve worked a lot on this definition because I have used quite often the trust of people in my life and someday it had blown up very big in my face, so I’ve decided to work a lot on the trust. And what is trust? My definition of trust is that someone is giving you the power to take an action that will have an irreversible effect on this person.

Richard: (09:47)

Yann: (09:48)
So if I go back to the example of the brother and you share with me something very specific to you. For example, it’s very intimate. And then you trust that it will stay between us, but I share that with someone else. And it comes back to you, then you are hurt forever because I want to be able to reverse this. And this is my definition of trust that someone gives you an information, someone gives you some power on himself, and if you abuse this power, you will break this connection by doing something that you can’t rewind, that you can’t undo.

Richard: (10:22)

Yann: (10:23)
So to give an example, I have a son of 18 years old and we went driving together for the first time. And he was happy to follow the guys and to go fast, so of course, as a teenager. And I explained to him, I said, look, I sit next to you and I trust that you drive this car properly because I sit next to you. I can do nothing if we have an accident, it’s you, you’re the driver. So if we have an accident by bad behavior of you, then maybe I will have an injury that is not reversible, best case scenario. Maybe I die. You know? So the trust I give you is that I sit next to you and I’ll give you my life as a trust that you drive safely this car. And then that was a quite intense moment. He was looking at me. He was like, do you want to drive now? Are you sure I can drive?

Yann: (11:03)
I’m just putting him in a bit of pressure. So trust in a team is very important that you’re sure that the vulnerability, the openness, all the things that you will share with the team members will be addressed with stress and will be cherished as a gift between the team members.

Richard: (11:23)
All right. So you’re going large here. These are big definitions of words. Vulnerability, brotherhood, trust. I think that’s the biggest definition of trust I’ve ever heard.

Yann: (11:38)
Well, it’s the outcome of a lot of distrusts. So I’ve… It’s easy to abuse trust of people because you think you go faster, but it’s a short term. And that was the way I drove my life for a certain number of years and I’ve suffered from it. And then one day I said, hey, I need to stop. Yeah.

Richard: (11:57)
That’s funny the way you say it like that too. We were talking before we started recording about some of the work we do, and then you introduced yourself as some of the work you do is coaching. And I do the same. And I noticed that a lot of the time, what I’m coaching people on is something that I’m working on myself. And I’ve heard other people say this as well.

Yann: (12:16)

Richard: (12:17)
So sometimes trust might be the thing I’m working on myself, so this is what I’m just noticing.

Yann: (12:23)

Richard: (12:25)
That’s a gap or something that my clients might want to be working on because I’m not just happened to be so focused on it. This is often how it goes. Right?

Yann: (12:32)
Yeah. Correct, correct. There’s one more thing that comes to my mind about talking about teams. That is the direct consequence of what we see now is setting boundaries. So in a team, it’s very important that all the members of the team are fully committed to the goal of the team. But also that all the members know the boundaries that they can’t cross of the other team members. I think if you stand as a team member with a strong definition of your boundaries with a strong inner compass, and that you don’t expect the others to define your inner compass, but just to join with your energy, with your ambition, with your goals, to contribute to the team targets without, you know, expecting someone else to define it for you.

Richard: (13:19)
Right. So this is interesting. A strong sense of your own boundaries and your own inner compass, as well as being open so that you can actually connect with each other, right?

Yann: (13:31)
Yes. Correct. And you connect with them in a very healthy way. You connect without looking for power plays without entering into existing patterns, without broadcasting too much ego or [inaudible 00:13:39]. You just, you connect. It’s a soul connection. You connect with your soul and not with your mind.

Richard: (13:48)

Yann: (13:48)

Richard: (13:49)
Right. Okay, that’s beautiful as well. Connecting with your souls, not with your minds. This team that we were talking about, this men’s retreat team, were there any other concrete behaviors that went into it? It’s being such a great team.

Yann: (14:02)
Something very simple but the physical contact, you know, touching each other, it’s a, you know, for example, I know in the U.S. People are used to hugs. A hug is a very common practice in the U.S.? Yeah, sure?

Richard: (14:16)
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it’s kind of superficial. And, I’ll say this back to you. I know in French speaking culture, kissing on the cheek is also a common way that we don’t have in the United States.

Yann: (14:29)
Yeah. Correct. So I like to watch in every culture, how people connect physically, you know, how the animal bodies are talking to each other. Is it a handshake? Is it a kiss on the cheek? Is it a hug? Is it a yeah, just a look or whatsoever? When I look at the way people are used to doing it, most of the time people do it without realizing they’re doing it, just to do a handshake or kiss like this, or the hug. Sometimes as you say, it’s very superficial. It’s just a clap like this with a clap in the back and that’s it. Okay. Well, just take the time to connect properly, to really connect, have a physical connection and touch the arm, give a hug, but a hug that stays more than half a second, you know like one or two, three seconds. A real handshake with a look. You know, just something that you can, you can feel, you can experience the energy of the person.

Yann: (15:21)
That’s very basic. That’s so simple. And if you look at the successful teams in sports, very often there’s a lot of touching, there’s a lot of contact together. And that’s what we did in this team. Also, we were very often are in a circle, holding each other via the shoulders or by the hands or whatsoever, but just to create this unity by just being one group, touching each other, giving hands or giving hugs or whatsoever. That’s very important. And on the work floor, if I’m going back to business, if you see two colleagues giving a hug in Europe, it’s like, wow, what’s happening. They are friends, they are not colleagues. There’s a group in a group, you know, and this is dangerous. They are friends, they are not colleagues. Or are they going to make some business in the back of the company?

Yann: (16:07)
Are they going to find some, you know, some… You can’t trust those two guys. They are too close. Which I think is wrong.

Richard: (16:15)
That’s so interesting. Yeah.

Yann: (16:16)
You know, awaken the animal in you. Awaken the animal in you with physical contact with a look, with the voice. What I also experienced in many teams, not only this one, is the direct and instant feedback. Positive. Negative. I mean, positive or constructive. So just to congratulate or to reframe. But don’t ever leave room for a feedback that stays for later. It’s instant feedback. It’s you know, just go to someone at the end of a meeting or whatsoever just, “Hey, I watched you during the meeting, the presentation you did was really good. I liked the way you have a push this message through, especially when you said that, that, that. I think you really carry the value of our team. Good job.”

Richard: (17:03)

Yann: (17:04)
Only saying it, it’s already your pleasure to say that. The person who receives, we are very bad in general in receiving compliments, so the person that receives it can be a bit embarrassed. But if you do it on regular basis, you get a very good energy within the team because people know where they are good at. And also people know where they have to improve.

Yann: (17:23)
And I was in this specific retreat at one moment, there’s one person, a young guy who took the lead of one of the workshops. And his leadership was weak because he’s young and he was impressed so his leadership was quite weak in the words he was using extra. So I took him at the end, I said, “Hey, you did a good job. I saw you. It’s the first time you’ve run a team like this. You’re 24 years old being a leader is complex. I would like to give you two tips. You did this. I would advise you to do this, this instead of this.” And the guy was like, “Wow, that’s nice. I’ve never heard such a feedback.” So feedback is food for champions.

Richard: (17:58)
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Yann: (17:59)
Feedback is food for champions. But feedback, we always think, ah, feedback. We take some notes and I will see you. And we’ll sit down for one hour and I will give you some feedback. No, it’s on the go instant feedbacks. I mean, I try to give five feedbacks a day. It’s so good. It’s a good feeling to give the feedback. You know?

Richard: (18:18)
Right. And I think the way you frame the feedback, it would make it feel good to receive feedback from you.

Yann: (18:25)
I hope so. But the feedback has to be… We are not giving a lesson. We’re very firm when give feedback like ahhh, so you should do this instead of this. This is not feedback. This is giving a lesson. This is broadcasting some ego, and this is putting the person three below. No. Feedback is, I’ve seen you doing that. How could you do it different? Because I think there are different ways. I think this could be done in a different way. I would like to… But the feedback also has to be positive just to say, well, you are good. What you did was good. You are good today. Well done. Yeah, just say it.

Richard: (19:04)
All right. There is so much here that you’ve shared. What advice would you give to listeners? What are some of the most important things that our listeners could do to reproduce some of the success that you experienced on this team?

Yann: (19:15)
Go for the interaction with the team as one of the most important focus points of the work. So, if you want to turn with the team and let’s imagine you have to sail a boat from A to B. I like sailing. And you are six people on this boat, you can focus on the technicity of the boat. You can focus on the type of boat, the type of sale, you can focus on the weather. You can focus on the sea conditions. You can focus on the food, on the fuel, et cetera. Anything you can focus on. We have the tendency to focus on those things and not to focus on how the team’s going to work together. What’s going to be our experience or common experience? And if you would have one thing to focus on it’s this thing, because if this is okay, the rest will follow naturally.

Yann: (20:02)
So if I go sailing, for example, with a group of people in which I do quite often. I always take like half an hour to one hour before we are on the boat to discuss, how are we going to be as a team? How are we going to interact? What is our communication scheme? What is our expectations? What is something that I don’t want to see? What do I want to see? And so on and so on. And if it’s for a day, of course I would spend only one hour, but if it’s on the long term, reviewing on a regular basis. The rules of the team makes… The working together is not a given the working together also has to be thought and analyzed and improved.

Richard: (20:43)

Yann: (20:44)
So that would be my advice spend most of the time on putting some oil in the team engine.

Richard: (20:51)
Absolutely. And is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Yann: (20:56)
The best memories I have of achievements are not the goals I have achieved. I don’t remember, you know… In the business, for example, raising your share from 10% to 20%, achieving a certain amount, or a ton of extra. If it’s 10 years ago, pfff, I don’t recall that. But what I recall and what I keep always is some emails I received from people that say, wow Yann, this was great to achieve that together. It’s a great memory that we have been able to do this together. So something I’d like to add is to cherish the fact that we alone are a very complex individual; two together it’s even more complex. But if you put 10 or 20 or 50 of those complex individuals together, and you’re able to achieve something together, it’s magic. It’s really magic. And it’s not a given. Something I’d like to add is value the pleasure of joining forces with other human beings and have the chance to have a full brain and a full body and a full soul. Together, have a journey somewhere in your life. That’s what I’d like to add. Cherish that.

Richard: (22:08)
That’s beautiful. Cherish that. And if listeners would like to get in touch with you, is there a way they can do that?

Yann: (22:18)
I’m a fan of LinkedIn. So you can find me on LinkedIn, Y A N N, my first name. And then, T O U T A N T, for my last name. Yann Toutant on LinkedIn. Very easy to find.

Richard: (22:29)
All right. Perfect. Well, Yann. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your time. Thanks.

Richard: (22:38)
Hi, friends. Thanks again for listening. And remember to support this podcast, visit my website