Five powerful ways to build trust in teams

trust in teams

More than half of managers don’t trust everyone or almost everyone they work with according to a recent research report by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM).

Yet trust underpins effective working relationships. The more someone trusts a colleague, manager or team member, the greater the likelihood they will co-operate, share information and work effectively together

How can you develop higher levels of trust in a team?

Here are five powerful ways you can create a trusting environment in the workplace.

1. Get people together in the same room

Trust is about relationships, and trust is created through interactions. You can build trust remotely but time spent together will significantly accelerate the process. If you work with a dispersed team, plan a team offsite. The upfront costs are an investment in your team’s productivity.

2. Bring trust to life

Trust is one of those intangible things. People know when it exists and when it doesn’t, but can’t easily explain why or how it exists. Suppose they had built trust in the team, how would they know? What would team members be doing? How would team members be behaving? What would other people notice about the team?

Help your team answer these questions with a fun activity. Ask team members to sketch a scene or scenes of the team operating when trust is high. The scene should make the abstract concept of trust concrete. As a bonus, discussing and drawing the scene is fun, creative and inspiring for all involved!

3. Rate your current culture

Charles H. Green, author of The Trusted Advisor, points out that trust is a two-way street. It depends on individuals trusting others and being trusted by others.

One way of assessing how much trust already exists within the team is to assess how much team members demonstrate they trust their colleagues and what they are doing to be seen as trustworthy. You can use a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is total trust within the team and 1 is complete mistrust.

Keep the conversation positive. Instead of focusing on why the team isn’t currently rated a 10, encourage team members to reflect on the things they are already doing to build trust. Highlighting specific behaviours will identify approaches that will progress the team further up the scale and energise everyone to act on those ideas.

4. Put constructive feedback in writing

Self-assessment is helpful, but it’s only part of the story. For best results, get feedback from others.

Some people are more comfortable speaking up in a group, and some are more skilled at delivering feedback constructively. Ask team members to write down their feedback to give everyone an equal chance to contribute. Writing out feedback also helps everyone think more carefully about the words they use.

5. Encourage team members to commit to personal actions

One of the dangers of any team meeting or activity is that actions and agreements stay at the team level. It’s the individual team members who must take action. Developing trust across the team relies on each person demonstrating trust in others and increasing their own trustworthiness.

Trust is a broad and complex subject. Try these five approaches to facilitate discussion and accelerate the building of trust across your team.

Do you have more best practices for building trust across your team? Tell us in the comments below.

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