3 Steps to Building Trust Within Your Team

We explored in an earlier blog "How Trust is Essential to a Productive Workplace," what can happen when trust is missing, and how trust is a cornerstone to employee engagement, productivity, and more. As Dr. David Ballard, the head of APA's Center for Organizational Excellence, says:  “...Lack of trust should serve as a wake-up call for employers...Trust plays an important role in the workplace and affects employees’ well-being and job performance."    

Building trust within your team is an ongoing process that grows over time, and it starts with you as the leader of your team, department, or organization.

Step 1: Lead by example

Be trustworthy yourself, knowing that everyone’s watching you and learning from you.  This is more important than you may realize:  “More than half [of respondents to a study] feel like their employer isn’t open and upfront, a third feel that their organization isn’t always honest and truthful. One in four say they don’t trust their employer at all.” (Source: Harvard Business Review, April 2014)

Examine your own behavior, and explore honestly if you are demonstrating trust with your team. Find the areas where you have less than ideal trust. It often shows up out of judgments and assumptions we make about people which may or may not be correct.  Ask yourself:  Do you trust each of your team members? Do you listen to each member (not just the ones who speak up or with whom you share values)? Are you being sensitive to interpersonal styles that may be different from your own, and could you be making unfair judgments of those individuals, or simply ignoring them because you don’t understand them?

Gain trust by trusting: the more you give, the more you get.

Step 2: Build open communication and respectful discourse within your team

Open, honest communication engenders respect and trust. People feel more likely to trust when they feel heard and understood. They’re more likely to engage, collaborate, and contribute their ideas to the team. After all, this is why they were hired, so you want to do everything you can to bring the best out in them and not to squelch their capacity to contribute.

Creating a "Team Agreement" around what the team needs to trust each other to do is a super first step. In previous posts I have outlined this process and a good team coach/facilitator inside or outside your organization should be able to assist.

Step 3:  Learn how to manage conflict

What we often find in our work as Conflict Advisors is a direct correlation between negative or unmanaged conflict and an erosion of trust, not only between the parties who are engaged in the conflict but also the ripple effect that spreads through the team and sometimes into the whole organization. The longer the disagreement goes unresolved, the harder it becomes to return to normal productive relations - and to build up the trust that has been lost.

  • Building awareness around conflict and disputes is absolutely necessary to enhance innovation and avoid destructive patterns. You must manage conflict or it will manage you!
  • Look for tools and training that will help you learn about: how conflict shows up in your workplace; how to identify underlying systemic conflict issues; and how to build strategies so you can lean into conflict to halt its escalation and enhance your team's creativity.
  • Harnessing the power of conflict is not only one key to building trust in your team, it also underpins open communication, collaboration, healthy change management, and innovation.

These steps are not necessarily easy ones, but they're not as hard as they may seem. If we can help with any more specifics, please check out the rest of the Resologics website, or just give us a call.

Good luck out there - Mark