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June 6, 2019

How Do You Build Team Trust? – Your Top Tips

Matthew Hughes


As anyone who's ever worked closely with others knows, trust is an essential ingredient for success. Without it, the seeds of discord are sown, and the damaging effects of poor performance can ripple throughout a whole organization.

What Is Trust?

There are many definitions of trust but, at its core, trust is about feeling safe to place your confidence in someone (or something) else. Vulnerability is an important aspect of trust. When you trust someone with something, you place your well-being outside of your own control. For this reason, some people have an enormous amount of difficulty learning to trust others, and it can be one of the toughest things to earn.

It's often said that trust is in short supply. Arguably, the spread of fake news, the proliferation of social media bots, and the instability of the global economy are all undermining our confidence in institutions, authority figures, and the media. But still, it's trust that makes the world go around.

Indeed, trust is a huge part of our daily lives. We trust the little piece of plastic in our wallet to give us instant access to our bank accounts, and we trust others to show up when we make appointments (well, most people at least!). We trust the snooze function on our alarm to work on that difficult Monday morning, and we trust the traffic lights to function on our commute to work!

Why Trust Is Critical in the Workplace

Building trust is especially important in the workplace. As teams become more dispersed and departments more compartmentalized, it's essential that we can rely on those working closely with us to deliver.

Without trust, the best-case scenario is that people aren't performing as well as they could. And in the worst-case scenario, there is a damaging breakdown in team output as tension, unhappiness, conflict, and miscommunication take over.

But, with trust comes safety. And with safety people are willing to take risks, to suggest unusual ideas, to go the extra mile for others, and to put in extra effort. In my own experience, the one constant feature of a good job has been a close, trusting team. Without that trust, a job is less likely to be satisfying and rewarding.

Retaining talent, minimizing staff turnover, and maintaining productivity are essential for organizations to work at their best, and trust is a key part of that. But building trust is easier said than done. So, how can you bring a team together?

Your Top Tips on Building Team Trust

Our article, Building Trust Inside in Your Team, has some great advice on this topic. But we wanted to hear your thoughts on the subject, so we asked our friends and followers on social media, "How do you build trust in a team?" Here's a selection of your replies.

Rapport and Communication

A key theme was the importance of communication. Our Facebook friend Etame Dimitte said simply, "Encourage rapport."

Similarly, on LinkedIn, Dream0203 Trinh said that she believes in the role of dialogue: "[Be] honest, open, listen. Understand to be understood."

Also on LinkedIn, June Shepherd tweaked a famous political sound bite to help make his point. "Communicate, communicate, communicate. Frequent, honest communication builds trust. Poor communication is one of the key reasons work relationships fall apart."

Read our article, Building Rapport, for great advice on how to establish lasting connections with others.

Create a Safe Environment

Expanding on the theme of communication, many of you emphasized the importance of fostering a "safe space."

On Twitter, Ashley Murray said, "Allow the environment to be a safe space to make mistakes. Allow for these to be growth opportunities."

Project manager Engin Gursoy spoke about the need to remove judgment. He said, "Create a safe space where nobody is judged and everybody feels responsible with the failures and successes of the team together."

There was also emphasis on bonding and building trust by pushing the boundaries. On Twitter, imPROs said, "Play, take risks together in a secure space where errors have no consequences, see each other laugh, tell each other stories created in the moment."

The power of a safe environment to "play" and learn about each other was well summed up by Andy Bradley. He said,"By hearing each other’s stories. The formative moments. What we are made of. I have seen teams transform when given space to listen to these stories."

Good Leadership

While communication is certainly key, Lauren Dacruz believes there is more to it than that. She said, "I believe that communication and transparency are very important. However, people management is of utmost importance."

Many of you noted the importance of leadership in gaining and building trust within a team. "To build team trust, it is important to foster team respect through enabling peer to peer support, sharing of learning and team learning," said L&D professional and coach, Georgia Yiannikas.

On Facebook, Mohammad Al-Tamimi commented that the way for leaders to gain trust is simple: "When you explain why any decision has been made, the team members should trust the leader in the future."

But June Shepard upped the ante, and suggested that with leadership and trust, the mantra should be "show, don't tell."

"Show people you care about them," June said. "When people know you care about their interests as much as your own, they will trust you. If they know you are out for yourself, their internal alarm sounds and they will say to themselves, 'Watch out for that person.'"  

Teach Yourself to Trust

June also made a final, interesting point – ask yourself, do you really trust your team, deep down?

He said, "I believe people trust their teams. But then [they] continue to micromanage, refuse to offer opportunities for growth, and are critical of the tiniest missteps. True trust must be rooted in actions and accountability. Start by verbalizing it, and say the words, 'I trust you.'"

Mind Tools Resources

Mind Tools Club and Connect users can access our many Book Insight podcasts on trust, including:

Thank you to everyone who responded to our #MTtips question. Feel free to continue the discussion in the comments section, below!

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2 comments on “How Do You Build Team Trust? – Your Top Tips”

  1. Thanks for the insight,because TRUST is a subject that is seldom discussed , although it is so very important at every level of our lives.

    1. Indeed Ettie, trust underpins every relationship we have whether it is at work or elsewhere in our lives. Plus, once broken, it can be challenging to repair.

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