In a recent Better Teams survey 38% of respondents cited trust as their biggest team related challenge. Building and maintaining trust is one of the most prevalent challenges for leaders. Without psychological safety teams struggle with the work as well as interpersonally.

Why is trust such a sticking point for teams? 

Perhaps it is the fundamental need we have to protect ourselves.  When we trust others, we are vulnerable, a position which may feel weak and uncertain to many.  It’s not fun to feel exposed… it’s a lot easier to play it safe.

Why should leaders encourage vulnerability and be willing to be vulnerable themselves?

While books have been written on the topic, I think the answer is simple.  When in trusting relationships we feel like we belong, like we are safe and as if we are not in “it” alone.  This sense of togetherness is both assuring and also inspires courageous behaviors. Teams with high levels of trust are more productive, collaborative, inventive, engaged and satisfied.

How do we build trust in our work relationships?

If you would like to build trust with your colleagues, here are a few simple things you can do with individuals AND/OR with your team collectively:

1.  Clarify understandings and agreements.

Often trust is broken because of misunderstandings or perceptions.  In every conversation, listen closely and state back what you have heard.  Ask the other(s) to do the same.  Be sure all parties leave with the same understanding.

2.  Give the benefit of the doubt.

Rather than jump to the conclusion that someone didn’t come through, or intentionally said or did something to cause you harm, check in.  Assume innocence before guilt.  Ask questions with a curious (not accusatory tone). Be sure you have all the information.

3.  Be a little vulnerable.

Choose someone whom you would like to build more trust with and be more open with them.  Start small, no need to share deep dark secrets.  Instead be willing to share something that is challenging you and to ask for (and genuinely listen to) their ideas.

4.  Check yourself.

Trust is a two-way street and it starts with you. Demonstrate to others the behaviors you would like reciprocated. Do not gossip about your co-workers.  Ask yourself:   Would you trust yourself if you were a colleague?

5.  Share your desire to build trust.

Put it on the table and call it what it is.  Begin conversations about how to build trust.  Listen intently to understand what your colleagues say and need.  Be respectfully authentic about your own needs and perspectives on the relationship.

6.  Learn about others.

Find out more about your colleagues.  Figure out what is important to them and what frustrates them.  Ask questions about their friends, families and interests. Show that you genuinely care about who they are and what matters to them personally.

A Challenge:

Think of one person with whom you would like to build more trust. Select one of the recommendations above to focus on for the next 2-3 weeks.  Choose one that will challenge you.  Share your goal with a mentor, family member or colleague with whom you already have established trust and ask them to check in with you and to hold you accountable.

About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and Forward, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for these great team meeting ideas to help build trust. They are very do-able while being challenging at the same time. Helps to develop growth from both persons, speaker and listener.

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