How do you build trust in a team?

18 December 2020 by Kendelle Tekstar
blog author

As a learning and development professional, I hear this a lot from clients, but it’s a very big picture interpersonal growth area… Where do you start, right? It can feel overwhelming, but we know it’s important!

I like this quote from Stephen Covey on why this is not a topic to be swept under the rug: “When trust is low, in a company or a relationship, it places a hidden ‘tax’ on every transaction; every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is taxed, bringing speed down and costs up. My experience is that significant distrust doubles the cost of doing business and triples the time it takes to get things done”.

Based on my professional studies and practical experience supporting teams, I’d like to share a few tips to get you headed in the right direction if this feels like an important focus area for your team… And you don’t have to be a team leader to start this conversation with your peers!

  • Here’s to a very simple conversation-starter to pose to everyone in your team (I like simple!): What does trust mean to you?

    It’s quite hard to achieve something if you aren’t all on the same page about what the ideal outcome looks like! I think there are quite a few people who believe trust can be a sensitive subject – when it comes to sensitive subjects, the last thing you want is to add lack of clarity into the mix so spell it out even if it feels rudimentary!

    Before I started studying trust as a concept, I would have described it in a way that focused on trusting whether people have good intentions, whether they are reliable, and whether I can trust them with sensitive information. All of these things come into play, but there’s still a lot more ground to cover!

  • Next, introduce a framework for trust that you can build a discussion around. I have a bias for working with trust frameworks from Dr. Brené Brown and Charles Feltmanin the team development sessions we offer. To tackle these frameworks effectively, it definitely requires courageous conversations. So before you get stuck in, I highly suggest asking people what they need in order to be vulnerable, open, and honest in this reflective environment. Establish some ground rules and actively honour them.

    We suggest that one of the key outputs of your discussion be formally identifying, in a structured way, what behaviours the team will engage in to build/maintain trust and what behaviours detract from this (and importantly regarding the latter, how team members will communicate breaches of trust empathically in order to start conversations about how to reset). 

  • Now it’s time to go out there and experiment with working on individual and team-level growth areas that you've identified in relation to trust-building, using your formal contracting work as an ongoing reference point to track progress. Trust is not earnt and then ticked off as you know, so this will need to be a living and breathing contract that is adapted as required – you may find you need to add to or amend the behaviours you initially agreed upon.

Curious to go deeper with your team into the topic of trust with the help of a trained coach and facilitator? Get in touch with a member of the Acre Frameworks team to discuss how we can support:frameworks@acre.com

Happy reflecting,

Kendelle