Every HR professional worth their salt knows that building trust is the key to lasting success in teams. After all, you deal with the fallout from breakdowns in trust every day. Miscommunication, conflict, poor performance, and high turnover are just some of the problems. However, learning how to trust isn’t something we are taught at school. And the chances of finding it covered in onboarding are zip. The good news is that you can use effective strategies to build a high-trust team culture. So, whether your team is hybrid, office-based, or fully remote, our best-practice tips will help you understand how to build trust in a team.
What Is Trust In The Workplace?
We all know a breakdown in trust when we see it. It’s the co-worker who regularly misses deadlines. Or it’s the micromanaging supervisor who is constantly looking over your shoulder. However, finding the words to describe what we mean by trust at work is much trickier. So, let’s get back to basics. Trust within a team involves the following:
- Having confidence in the dependability of colleagues when collaborating
- Knowing co-workers will do the right thing
- Being able to predict how others will act in certain situations
- Earning credibility over time for your knowledge and expertise.
When it comes to building trust in a team, be aware that there are two types of trust. And each works in different ways.
Hard-working employees that show up on time and are reliable and competent earn the trust of managers and co-workers. When these workers say they will do something, you know they will get the job done. However, remember, it works both ways. Staff also need to have trust in their managers. So, whether you are a senior exec or new hire, start by modeling the behaviors you expect in others.
Developing emotional trust is more complex. This involves going above and beyond and creating strong social bonds. If you have ever had a best friend at work, you will have developed emotional trust. You have each other’s backs. And you are comfortable sharing ideas and thoughts that you wouldn’t with just any colleague. Building emotional trust may be harder to achieve between all team members. However, team-building activities and social events will go a long way.
Why Do I Need To Care About Trust?
Research from the Great Place To Work Institute confirms the vital importance of trustworthiness. Eighty-three percent of workers at the Fortune 100 Best Companies said management’s actions match its words. This contrasts with only 42 percent of staff in the average workplace. Furthermore, employees with ethical and honest managers are five times more likely to want to stay for a long time.
A boss that doesn’t trust you won’t give you freedom and autonomy. They are more likely to micromanage and double-check all your work.
Colleagues who don’t trust each other won’t collaborate effectively. Poor performance, low productivity, and a toxic environment are the fallout.
Trust is good for team morale and motivation. It makes teamwork and collaboration a whole lot easier. Furthermore, it helps build employee engagement and reduces stress, burnout, and turnover.
Nowadays, with more of us working remotely or in hybrid setups, trust within the team is even more critical. Far from being a nice to have, it’s now a must-have.
How Do I Know If Trust Is A Problem?
All teams are different. Trust levels will rise and fall over time as members come and go. However, here are some early warning signs you need to watch out for. You know you have a problem if you encounter any of the following:
- The team brings their issues directly to the leader rather than trying first to resolve them
- Team members don’t take ownership of tasks
- Deliverables must go through several checkpoints
- Conflict and tensions are obvious in team meetings
- No one takes responsibility for mistakes, and the team isn’t held accountable
- Co-workers are unable to problem-solve together
How To Build Trust In A Team: 10 Proven Strategies
Building trust isn’t a one-off task. It should be part of the group’s ongoing maintenance. However, managers don’t always know how to build trust in a team. Perhaps you are a freshly appointed manager, have a new team, or what to rebuild one where trust has broken down. Or maybe you are an HR professional working with managers to build trust. Whatever the case, the following proven strategies will kickstart the process.
1. Set Clear Roles And Responsibilities
One of the best ways to establish trust is to set clear ground rules. Take time out to discuss the team’s roles and responsibilities. Make it clear who is responsible for what and by when. And review the group’s structure regularly to ensure it remains valid.
You have the foundations for success if your people understand their work and colleagues’ responsibilities.
2. Encourage Relationship Building
Developing trust within the team takes time. Face-to-face meetings allow staff to get to know each other personally. And if that’s not possible, Zoom sessions with cameras on can be just as effective.
Also, look to promote informal networking opportunities. Lunch and learns or webinars bring staff together. And they are an excellent tool for promoting individuals’ credibility with colleagues.
And don’t forget those all-important team-building activities. Virtual happy hours and team social outings may have become a bit of a cliché. But don’t underestimate their value in promoting the social bonds that underpin a high-trust company culture.
3. Prioritize Open And Honest Communication
Sometimes telling the truth as a leader can be tough. However, your team will value open and honest communication. There’s no surer way to alienate the group than not being totally upfront. And it sets a poor example for team communication. Don’t try and sugarcoat bad news or tell only part of the story, as your team will see right through you. Similarly, avoid pretending you know all the answers. Instead, be honest and promise to find out more.
Transparent comms means team members feel comfortable asking questions, seeking clarification, and sharing their insights. It does away with the uncertainty, confusion, and misinformation that fuel the blame game.
And remember, listening is just as vital to effective team communications. So, be sure to give your people opportunities to speak up and be heard.
The bottom line is open and transparent team dialogue builds trust. And ultimately, it leads to better ideas and enhanced outputs.
4. Empower Your Team
Once you have set the ground rules, give your team the space to get on with the job. Your people will soon start trusting each other when they begin making decisions together. Take a hands-off approach and encourage them to do their own project planning, brainstorming, and problem-solving. Don’t hover. Instead, be ready to step in and offer support if needed.
Moreover, allowing team members freedom to make decisions and take risks shows you have faith in them. They will feel more motivated, valued, and ready to give their best.
5. Develop A Culture Of Appreciation
Recognize the team’s efforts and achievements often, and they are more likely to trust you and each other. Use public and private ways to show appreciation, including employee awards, thank you emails, verbal praise, or shoutouts on team chat.
A thank you from the boss is always welcome. But so too is the appreciation of colleagues. So, make sure you include opportunities for peer-to-peer recognition.
Employee recognition is a surefire way to foster a great team spirit and build trust.
6. Celebrate Successes
A proven track record of success enhances the credibility of your people. And as we’ve seen, credibility is a driver of trust. Showcase team successes and wins and recognize excellent performance. Not only will you be building trust in the team, but you will also inspire others to aim for the top.
7. Practice What You Preach
Your actions as a leader set the standard for others to follow. Whether it’s open communication or appreciating others be sure to model the right behaviors. For example, if you expect your team to be on time for meetings, then don’t show up five minutes late yourself.
Lead by example, and your team will trust you to keep your word and do the right thing.
8. Own Up When You Get It Wrong
Own your mistakes. None of us is infallible. Admitting when you get something wrong makes you human. And take responsibility for the team’s shortcomings as well as successes. As the leader, you need to take the hit when things go pear-shaped. Whether the outcome is good or bad, accept responsibility, and the team will start trusting you.
9. Ask For Feedback And Take Action
It could be as simple as asking one of your people in a one-to-one, ‘How are you doing?’ Seize feedback opportunities wherever you can. And find out what staff think or what they would like to change about the workplace.
However, HR professionals and leaders can’t be everywhere. So, have in place various channels to give staff a voice in the organization. Many companies have annual employee surveys. While they undoubtedly have a role, you may want to supplement these with pulse checks or always-on feedback channels.
Inviting feedback is critical to building trust. However, following through with action is even more important. Failing to respond will see your people quickly lose faith. Dissatisfaction and even cynicism with you and the organization will grow.
It won’t be possible to act on every idea or suggestion. But your people will expect to see some tangible results. And if it’s impossible to take action, explaining why will make a difference.
10. Show Your People You Care
Nobody wants to feel like they are just a production unit. Instead, show your people you care by valuing them as individuals. Find out about their home lives and interests outside work. Or why not ask them about their weekend plans? Your team will trust you more if they feel you are really interested in them as people.
Showing you care also extends to investing in their development. High-trust workplaces understand the value of a growth mindset. And it doesn’t always have to be about training. Seek out opportunities for cross-team collaboration, mentoring, or work shadowing. Or what not give them extra responsibilities to extend their knowledge and skills.
How To Build Trust In A Team: Main Takeaways
There’s no rule book on how to build trust in a team. And yet it’s one of the most critical tasks a leader faces. Without it, your people may experience disengagement, conflict, and low morale. And the organization also suffers from poor performance, high turnover, and broken culture. Managing a team when trust has broken down is every leader’s nightmare.
Although establishing trust is a complex task, it’s not impossible. Experiment with these ten proven strategies and find the right one for you.
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