Why True Team Building Requires Rock-Solid Trust

You can group co-workers together without much forethought, but don’t expect that group to magically turn into a team. Strong teams are built on a foundation of trust. In baseball, clear communication between pitcher and catcher is indispensable to dealing effectively with batters. Hand signals given by the catcher indicate whether the pitcher should deliver a fastball, curveball, slider, or changeup pitch. A substantial amount of trust must underlie this relationship.

Teams function at their best when communication and trust are strong.

In the workplace, lack of trust among team members leads to inefficiency and dysfunction. Maybe one team member doubts another’s ability to understand a task, and the doubter ends up trying to compensate without even discussing things first. Trust requires honest communication and learning not to second-guess others. When a team is well-equipped with trust, people are willing to go above and beyond to reach goals. Such willingness largely depends on upon easy, effective communication.

What Is Trust?

Most of us know trust when we see it, but it’s not that easy to define. Trust is built on knowledge or belief that a person is knowledgeable, honest, and has honorable intentions. It develops when people interact with each other and are pleased with the results, whether the “results” are friendship, service, or completion of a work task on time and with excellence. A relationship between team members may begin based on assignment or reference, but real trust is earned when each party is happy with the quality of the others’ decisions and when team members believe the team is acting in everyone’s best interests.

Leaders Who Inspire Trust Get Better Results

Maybe there once was a time when leaders could be confident their position automatically made people compliant with their demands, but the workplace isn’t so much like that anymore. People want leaders who have earned their trust, and the leaders that do this get better results. For one thing, leaders who inspire trust tend to be skilled at trusting themselves, and are less likely to micromanage their team. And when a leader demonstrates trustworthiness, he or she follows clear values and principles that make sense for the company, rather than following egocentric motives that are only self-beneficial.

Lack of Trust Can Be Disastrous

On the flip side, the absence of trust in the work environment can be devastating. It is in these group settings where suspicion, backstabbing, and jockeying for position and favor triumph over getting actual productive work done. The leader who doesn’t trust team members tends not to be trusted by them either. Furthermore, non-trusting leaders are prone to micromanaging and generally treating team members like children rather than professionals. The end result is a group that spends as much time watching their backs as they do accomplishing goals, which isn’t a good use of resources.

Outstanding team leaders encourage reasonable risk-taking.

Trust Helps the Small Business Attract the Right People

Small businesses in particular benefit from strong trust among team members and between team members and their leaders. In small businesses, not only must employees believe that their leaders are being candid and open with information, they must also believe that their leaders have what it takes to keep the business going.

When employees worry that a leader’s actions will negatively affect the business, they’re less engaged at work and more likely to respond to that job opening elsewhere. Furthermore, leaders that aren’t known to be trustworthy have a harder time attracting the top talent they need to move past the competition. That star analyst or engineer you want to hire isn’t going to be interested if it’s clear that trust among team members and between teams and leaders is shaky.

Team building simply can’t succeed without strong trust among team members and between team members and leadership. Trust is something that must be earned (though someone with a solid reputation may be able to buy a little on “credit”) through honest communication and mutual demonstration of reliability and trustworthiness.

Great teams are about far more than hitting the numbers and beating deadlines, but about doing together what would not be possible for individuals or randomly grouped people. Teams are not silos either, because the best teams operate with candor and visibility. Teams of Distinction urges you to learn more about our Team Building Executive Coaching programs, which help leaders create dream teams that pull in the same direction and are built on a foundation of trust.

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