Earning Trust with Your Team

November 14, 2016
Author: Ralston McCracken

There can be a feeling of apprehension when managing a new team or trying to boost performance of an existing team. You need a strong sense of team and trust to best leverage the strengths of the group as a whole. But how do you establish trust?

Much has been written about building, gaining, or creating trust, when really it should be about earning trust—through investing time and effort. However, trust with your team is not enough. In order to optimize overall performance, there needs to be trust between team members. A team devoid of trust is not a team at all. At best, it is a group of individuals who work together with minimal collaboration and results.

This 5-point trust credo will help earn trust both with and within a team:

  1. Reliability: Deliver for the team as expected. That means you need be dependable, keeping your word. Behave consistently and predictably. Treat all employees fairly, striving to avoid favoritism. Foster an environment in which one another’s best interests is at heart.
  2. Openness: Be transparent. Tell people what they need to know and provide constructive feedback. Do not shy away from addressing issues early; they rarely go away on their own. Share information easily, without hesitation, rather than allowing employees to fill-in the blanks on their own.
  3. Honesty: Always be truthful. If you are putting “spin” on the answer, others will feel it. If you only share facts it may appear clinical or disconnected. Share your feelings or point of view, when appropriate, to demonstrate your honesty. Own up to mistakes and apologize—it shows strength not weakness.
  4. Integrity: Be loyal, putting the team first. Check your ego at the door and above all—maintain all shared confidences. Never divulge personal information about others. If you share your thoughts and feelings about others, your team will assume you do the same about them.
  5. Motivation: You can provide direction while still encouraging success, but your tone and delivery is important. Create mutual trust by empowering your team and holding them accountable. This requires setting clear expectations, agreeing on deadlines, and sharing how performance will be assessed. Equally as important is following up on performance and deadlines. If you are not reviewing progress, they may feel it really is not that important to you.

Take note that a disagreement with a team member does not have to damage trust, if you handle the issue early, appropriately, and without unnecessary emotion.

Investing both in the team as a whole and with each person on a professional, yet personal level will reap major dividends. Reflect on these recommendations. Which do you need to work on most with your team or even a specific individual? Prioritize and plan what you can do to demonstrate it in your next three interactions and team meetings.

Personal Challenge 

Allocate time to reflect on your team and identify where levels of trust with and within your team is weak. Use the 5-point credo and plan ways it can be improved. Think of events or teaming assignments that can foster trust. If there has been tension, consider how to inject laughter. People, when relaxed, are more open to changing old patterns or beliefs. Get creative!

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