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Leadership Article: Four  'How To Build Trust on Teams' Tips

(This Leadership Article was originally written October 2008 as the election debates and financial turmoil were heating up and boiling over!)  Have you been glued to the t.v. this week, like we have? Watching in dismay as our political ‘Leaders’ position and place blame on each other? Wouldn’t it be awful if you had this type of contention on your team? If you did you couldn’t get your team to agree on where to go to lunch, much less get their buy-in on key decisions and initiatives.

When people don’t trust each other this is what happens – low trust equals slow/no progress. (Think of airport security, Sarbanes Oxley and in this political situation – all of these situations represent low trust,
making movement-forward slow and costly.)

Without trust, words become the hollow sound of a wooden gong.
trust, words become life itself.”

Four 'How to Build' Trust Tips:

Here are four things you can do to improve trust (and therefore speed) on your team:

  • #1 HOW TO BUILD TRUST TIP: Develop team norms and standards for all meetings, communication and interactions. Have the entire team develop and create their norms- in-bounds and out-of-bounds behavior. Post and review the norms often. (If the team creates the norms, they will be much more likely to self-regulate during all meetings.)

Sample norms can include:
--Always look up when responding to others ideas by 1) say what you like about the idea and 2) how the idea can be made better
--Soft on people, hard in ideas - be kind to each other
--Everyone speaks
--One speaker at a time

This helps build trust because: it helps each person monitor their own behavior and allows the Team to monitor each other. Team Norms will improve the quality and depth of discussion and serves as a way to build respect and honor of each person in the room.

  • #2 HOW TO BUILD TRUST TIP: Clarify the roles and expectations of each team member – make it very clear who’s in charge of what, by when.  Every team member should have a Position Dashboard - a statement of the top three to five priorities, with measurements, for success in every position.  Answering this question helps start the process of creating each Position Dashboard, “What must happen in this position, in order for this position to be successful?”  (See a step-by-step Dashboard How-To, here.)

This helps build trust because: it improves individual accountability and clarity about what's expected and what eahc person is focused on, in their role. When you have clear and objective performance expectations for each person, in each position, the work process and flow is more fair and democratic. This paves the way for less biased and emotional discussions, and allows for more objective, work-focused meetings.  Fair, honest, direct and objective discussions about the work builds trust.

  • #3 HOW TO BUILD TRUST TIP: Conduct a confidential online team assessment that measures the team’s effectiveness. Make sure the assessment includes questions about their degree of trust, how conflict is handled and how focused the team is on getting results. Have the team review, discuss and define team strengths and development areas.
This helps build trust because:

if handled well your Team Survey can help your Team speak honestly about where the Team is, and can help the Team craft a plan to improve the Team. (See this video article- 7 Keys for Successful Opinion Surveys for a "how-to" on doing a Team Survey "right".) Sometimes the Team (and their Leader) need to be reminded that a Team is just like any relationship, if you want it to work it requires attention, focus, communication and dedication. Just the act of having honest discussions about where you are - through the Survey and then, the Team's Debriefing of the Results - will help the Team build more trust.

how t build trust on teams
  • #4 HOW TO BUILD TRUST TIP: Make building trust in every relationship, all the time, the highest priority of the Team. Without trust every action and every discussion becomes fraught with suspicion. Battle lines are drawn and NOTHING gets done. This is a simple-to-say Tip for Teams, but it requires great focus and intention on the part of the Leaders to keep the focus on building trust, front and center. EVERY long-term successful, making-money, high-performing and winning Team has high trust.

This helps build trust because: we all get busy, we all get focused on strategy and customer issues and product issues and just life-stuff. If someone on the Team is not consistently helping the Team focus on, and build, their levels of Trust with each will be "forgotten."

And before you know it your Team will be like the Politicians---pointing their fingers, blaming, not making any progress and secretly wondering, "How did we get here?"

And the answer will always be, "Somewhere along the way we stopped caring about trust, honor and respect...we were only worried about being right..."  Any time you spend introducing tools and taking action to reduce friction and increase trust, will improve the strength and ability of your team to perform. Indeed...with trust...all teams can excel and outperform their competition. 

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