Top Strategies for Building Trust within Teams
Trust is a must when it comes to team development. Without it, teams are apt to lack innovation, creative thinking, collaboration, and productivity. With it, team members feel safe and comfortable enough to open up and take the risks that can lead to exceptional results.
You can build trust within your team with these six top strategies. As you'll see, this blog post has a theme of leading by example—something that we aim for here at Birkman.
Create a Culture of Credibility
Team members are more likely to trust each other if they are immersed in a culture of credibility.
Credibility is established by following through on what you promise, and it’s one of the first steps in building trust. Leaders should keep their word, committing to what they pledge to their team members. If for some reason you’re unable to follow through on a promise, it’s vital you are transparent about the reasons why. Explain the challenges and why you're altering your plan, then outline how you’ll avoid making the same misstep in the future.
Being honest is essential, and so is being consistent. Tell the truth to your team, even if it’s not what you think they will want to hear. Consistency adds another layer of credibility to your corporate culture, as does displaying your own level of trust in those you work with.
Establishing a culture of credibility and leading by example every day goes a long way toward helping team members build trust with each other as well as the organization as a whole.
Respect is another key ingredient for building trust, whether it’s within teams or throughout the entire company. Leading by example in this area is again an important strategy. Treat each employee’s idea as valuable input. Make careful listening the norm. Be aware of any unspoken feelings employees may be experiencing, then set an example by speaking with members openly, honestly, and with respect to their points of view and emotions.
Making sure all team members feel included is another way to show respect. This means discouraging cliques, not singling people out by placing blame, and focusing on solutions rather than problems.
People interpret signs of respect differently. Some team members my expect to have feedback delivered with a no-frills approach, while others may want criticism to be expressed more gently. Some people thrive on healthy competition within a team and need it to feel motivated, while that may alienate others.
A workplace personality assessment that addresses how a person wishes others to speak to them can be a helpful tool for team members to learn how to address each other respectfully and embrace the unique traits that contribute to team diversity. They can be incredibly effective for uncovering and respecting similarities and differences among members, and then using both to the advantage of the overall team.
Communication is integral for every team building and team development strategy, and it’s also a vital component for building trust. Here you can lead by example by remaining open to all concerns, asking questions, offering help, and being honest and as clear as possible in your own communication. Team members will consistently take cues from you, and your communication style can serve as a framework for developing their own.
Clear communication and open sharing of information creates a culture of transparency. While you don’t want or need to share every single detail of information with everybody, you do want to be upfront about issues that matter to your team. Explain changes in great detail, and have leadership continually focus on internal change management. Let employees know what’s happening and why. Equally as important, let them know they can always come to you to discuss anything that’s bothering them.
Learn about Each Other on a Personal Level
The more team members know about each other on a personal level, the more likely they may be to trust each other on a professional one. A number of team building and team development outings, exercises, and events can help members learn more about each other.
You can also keep the familiar vibe alive by ensuring team members meet face-to-face on a regular basis, which is essential if any parts of your team work remotely. Regular meetings not only allow members to get to know each other better, but they provide a chance to share their progress, ask questions, and discuss any issues they may be having.
Examples of ways you can encourage them to connect:
- Host team lunches every month
- Have an annual company retreat
- Start off long meetings with a quick ice breaker question
- Pay for team members to attend conferences together
- Create an inviting company lounge area for employees to relax and chat
- Ask remote workers to work in-office periodically
Engage and Empower Team Members
Team members can quickly build trust in each other, and in the team, when they realize the full potential of what they can achieve. Leaders can give team members ample opportunity to work together by:
- Delegating problem-solving tasks and encouraging members to collectively work on creative solutions
- Challenging the team by allocating more responsibilities
- Using consensus to set goals, establish solutions, and plan for action
- Encouraging listening and brainstorming, both of which can inspire creativity and, in turn, lead to exceptional results
Don't limit their strategic contributions to only when you ask for them—always open up challenges to the team and leverage their collective ingenuity.
Establish Team Values & Goals
Setting the stage for trust can be achieved by first setting the stage for the goals of your team. Outlining the overall team values, targets, and procedures ensures each member understands what the mission is of the team, what you’re setting out to accomplish, and what’s expected as they work together.
Team values can be determined by asking what the team really cares about in performing its job, what actions the team can take to live up to its values, and defining what success means to the team. Establishing goals, milestones, and time frames provides a game plan for moving forward. It’s also a way to ensure all team members are aware of how they contribute to the larger picture.
Regularly evaluating team performance lets you check in on each member’s progress, success, and challenges that remain. It also allows you to evaluate how the team is working together as a unit, highlighting the strengths and establishing ways to bolster any weaknesses.
Trust is a foundational element for any company—between leadership and teams and between team members themselves. Through ongoing transparent communication and setting aside a small amount of time on a regular basis to dedicated activities, you can build trust and mutual understanding within your team. These small yet critical steps can make a large difference in times of stress and help your team feel more engaged.