Build a Circle of Trust with Your Team

RBLP Staff – Building and Leading Resilient Teams Series

Build a Circle of Trust with Your Team

As a leader, you need to build trust between yourself and the people on your team. But once you have everyone’s trust, your next task is to ensure that teammates trust one another.

If you fail to nurture trust between team members, the team will never function smoothly. Ultimately, such teams fail to achieve their full potential. But how does one foster trust between Sally and Enrique, and Enrique and Clair, and Clair and Philip, from the top down? The key: the leader must shine a light on each person’s strengths, and create situations where those strengths visibly benefit the whole team.

A football coach may have convinced his star quarterback that he has created a solid offensive line to protect him when he steps into the pocket to throw. But the quarterback won’t fully trust his coach’s expertise, or his offensive mates, until the linemen have proven themselves capable under game conditions.

In sports or combat, trust among teammates is quickly won or lost in the trenches. On the job, the process is more nuanced. Once the leader has established top-down trust, it is time to examine just how much trust exists between the rest of the team. You will know just how much internal trust-building awaits you if folks are coming into your office and complaining about one another.

I didn’t want to say anything in front of the group, but I just don’t trust Edgar.

I know you think Barbara understands what needs to be done, but I haven’t seen the proof of it yet.

You need to find out if the lack of trust among people is skill-based or a personality issue. In either case, it is up to you to fix it. Workers who don’t trust one another will undermine the best strategy.

Building internal team trust should be managed with multiple trust-building tools. One simple trust tool: calling out peoples’ strengths in front of the rest of the group. Be careful not to dilute this tactic. It isn’t the rotating “employee of the month parking spot.” Instead, when you have determined what skills someone has that contribute to your overall success, mention them in a team meeting. If the person has “hidden” skills yet to be exploited, mention those too.

Sally can do that?

I didn’t know she could!

I’d love to have her input into this problem we’re facing over here.

Another way to build trust in someone’s personality is to call out something from their off-the-job life that reveals character. “Did you all know that Tina works with veterans suffering from PTSD on the weekends? She’s been doing it for years.” You’ve revealed both Tina’s compassion and her perseverance in the face of long odds–qualities highly prized at work.

Then there’s the dive-off-the-deep-end strategy. You’ve gotten to know your people, and you can tell Carl and Becky are wary of each other. Instead of separating them in task situations, you pair them up. Let each one know why you value and trust the other person. Then step back and see how they handle it. More often than not, you will be rewarded with a positive outcome. After all, everyone wants to be on a winning team. With your encouragement, you have given them permission to let go of their trust issues and get the job done right.