Build trust within your team: Four ways

"Trust" definition in dictionary

Although many managers today instil a level of trust in their people, many more managers seem reluctant to do so. It is as if they are giving up their own personal power to do so. But what is the impact to your team if you don’t engender trust or worse still there is an absence of trust?

I was recently working on a leadership initiative for a client and one of the senior executives mentioned a book and lent me his copy to read. The book was called ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni. If you have not read it I would encourage you to do so, as it was a great reminder of what managers can do to build great teams.

So having read the book what was I reminded of you might ask?

Trust is paramount as it is the foundation of all relationships. If trust is absent, then this creates vulnerability and can quickly lead to dysfunction. Lencioni believes the absence of trust occurs when team members feel reluctant to admit to making mistakes or asking for help when they need it. Some people feel that this is a sign of weakness, so they feel vulnerable because they fear that they may be judged by their peers. If the right culture does not exists within your team and/or the organisation, then people will not actively ask for help nor will they share their points of view, particularly if they are different to the rest of the team. A healthy, positive conflict discussion encourages all of us to think differently and at times try different ways of doing things beyond the norm.

Once trust is absent it can have a ‘Snowball effect’ on the team. That is where Lencioni’s other 4 Dysfunctions come into play, which are:

Dysfunction 2 – Fear of Conflict

Dysfunction 3 – Lack of Commitment

Dysfunction 4 – Avoidance of Accountability

Dysfunction 5 – Inattention to Results

Once trust is established everything else stems from that and that is how you achieve teams that have result driven employees, who feel engaged and committed to their work. These teams are comfortable to have the difficult conversations ie air their opposing views and speak their mind, even if it would be unpopular to do so.

Peter Drucker’s view on how managers can establish trust is simply – to do what is best for the organisation and not oneself. He suggests that “Trust is mutual understanding. Not mutual love, not even mutual respect.  Predictability?”

Drucker believes that successful leaders don’t start out asking, “What do I want to do?” They ask, “What needs to be done?” Then they ask, “Of those things that would make a difference, which are right for me?” They don’t tackle things they aren’t good at. They make sure other necessities get done, but not by them. Successful leaders make sure that they succeed! They are not afraid of strength in others, because they harness the collectiveness of the team.

Here are four simple suggestions that may help you build trust within your team:

  1. Be Consistent. Trust builds over time and with every action. So your daily actions are either deposits or withdrawals from your team’s ‘trust in you’ bank account. Think about your actions and inactions with your team members.’
  2. Communicate Regularly. Is it two-way in your team? Are you open to feedback? If you have to deliver unpopular information or even bad news how will you deliver it and how will it be received by your team based on your relationship with them? Do you share on a regular basis with your team
  3. Be Empathic. Are you able to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ to truly understand their perspective? Do you ‘check in’ with your team members to see how they are progressing with their workload, personal/professional development plans, family matters etc.?
  4. Lead by Example. Are you accountable for your actions and deliverables? Are you upfront and honest in your dealings with others? Are you a team player? Do you do what you say you will do? Always remember non delivery will destroy trust and credibility all the time.

On a final note remember the words of Ernest Hemingway…”The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

So what are you going to do to build greater trust within your team and your wider organisation?

  • Stephen Dunkerley

    Hey Arndrea, loved the reference! A great read, and my experience is that trust is the foundation of all extraordinary team performance and results.

    • Arndria Seymour

      Thanks so much Stephen! Cheers Arndria