Trust in Michigan 4-H advisory groups

Consider these strategies to build a sense of trust in your 4-H advisory group.

Decisions that take into account a wide variety of perspectives are often more successful than decisions made by a single individual. Michigan 4-H Youth Development embraces this idea through utilizing county-based advisory groups composed of youth and adult volunteers. These advisory groups provide insight on new programming opportunities, raise funds and move ideas to action. Like any group, however, these critical volunteer-driven groups may experience conflict.

In his book, “Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni addresses five ways dysfunctional group dynamics can interrupt team goals. This upcoming series of Michigan State University Extension articles will address each of the five team dysfunctions and propose ways 4-H advisory groups might overcome them.

The base of the pyramid is the absence of trust. According to Lencioni, teams that are not able to foster a sense of trust among their members might question the motives of their members, waste time-managing behaviors and are reluctant to take risks.

Consider the following ideas to build a sense of trust in 4-H advisory groups.

  • Learn members’ names and stories. Use name tents or tags and strive beyond names to build relationships with team members as people first. While advisory group members might be representing a certain role in meetings, realize there is more to the person than their title or volunteer role. Before meetings, use an icebreaker question like, “What do you do in your free time?” in an attempt to find shared interests and common ground.
  • Utilize icebreakers and team-building activities. It is OK to be silly. In an organization that places an emphasis on youth development and treating youth as equals in decision-making roles, it is important for youth and adults to step outside of their comfort zone and build a sense of team together. Adults should participate in icebreaker activities right alongside youth.
  • Shake up the routine. While regularly scheduled meetings and predictable agendas can help teams increase productivity, the stale environment of a business-only agenda can be a challenging environment to foster trust. Consider sharing a potluck meal together during the next regularly scheduled business meeting. Field trips to neighboring counties to examine their advisory groups or educational programs can inform program ideas and provide a shared experience to build a sense of team.

MSU Extension staff can provide trainings to 4-H advisory groups looking to build trust among their teams. Visit our 4-H Advisory Group Support website for a variety of 4-H advisory group resources, or contact our team at

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