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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.

how to build trust on teams

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.
With trust, words become life itself.”

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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
    • 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.

performance expectation dashboard
  • #2 How to Build Trust Tip: Clarify the roles and expectations of each team member – who’s in charge of what by when. The Leader should ask and answer this question for each position on the team , What must happen in this position, in order for this position to be successful?” Develop 3 to 5 of the most important focus areas for each job. Then develop add measurements for each. (I call this the Position Dashboard - it's like a Dashboard on a car with a few key areas that are crucial to ensure the safe running of the vehicle. I'll be adding a how-to for Dashboards, soon, so check back or join my newsletter list.)

This helps build trust because it improves individual accountability and clarity about what's expected in each job. When you have clear and objective performance expectations for each person, in each position, each person is more accountability and 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.

  • #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 begin to help 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 - through the Survey and then, the Team's Debriefing of the Results - will help the Team build more trust.

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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 it 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 it front and center. EVERY long-term successful, making-money, high-performing and winning Team has had 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 that 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.

Review our Essential Leadership Performance Tools Workshops, here.

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