Essential Leadership Skills Part 4: Building Trust In Teams

Global research into teams by an organisation called Team Coaching International (TCI) revealed that trust is one of the most vital components in achieving success through teams.

Yet I am sure that you, like most have been part of teams where there was little or no trust. At other times you may well have been part of teams where it was never even discussed as it just seemed to be there.

In many ways it is not surprising that it is a challenge to build and maintain trust on teams. At the same time I think there is an awful lot that can be done to build trust in teams.

Like many other things on teams, what the leader does, how they behave and how they react to things has a huge impact on trust.

I can recall being involved in a major development project in healthcare where delivery was non-negotiable. We had people on the team from all parts of the NHS. We were also working with a private sector partner.

We all knew what needed to be done. We hit plenty of obstacles as there was no blueprint to follow. We had our disagreements. At the same time we all trusted each other to do our bit to get the result we wanted and we did.

So what contributes to trust in teams in my experience?

Clear Expectations

Everyone needs to know what is expected of them. This is not just in terms of outputs or deliverables but also in terms of how they work with others and resolve conflicts and disagreement.

Respecting Differences

How people operate is influenced by their professional background. An accountant will think differently to someone with a background in marketing or in sales. It does not mean that one is better than the other. It just means they look at things differently. Where there is trust these differences are acknowledged and accepted.

Doing What You Promise

Anyone can talk about what they will do or contribute. The proof in the pudding is when people deliver what they promise. Some will go to extreme lengths to deliver what they promise. Some will do the minimum. This can easily create resentment.

Hold People To Account

Not holding people to account undermines trust. People often see holding people to account as being something negative. In reality it is simply about asking people to account for what they have done against what they agreed to do. Keep letting people off the hook and you will lose trust of others.

Avoid Blaming

It might be easy to blame others when things go wrong. All this does is create divisions and is never productive. If things don’t work out as you hoped, use it as an opportunity to learn rather than blame.

Letting Go

You can’t be involved in everything and every decision as a leader of a team. You have to learn to let go and rely on others. Being a control freak will not help you or the team. People will simply become passive and do nothing.

Acknowledging Effort and Results

It is great when results and milestones are achieved. The whole team feels good. It is easy, especially when under pressure to lose sight of the effort people are putting in.

I can recall plenty of situations where despite the best efforts of everyone on the team we just could not quite get to where we wanted. It would have been easy to forget all the effort and fail to acknowledge it so I tried to avoid falling into this trap.

Have a way of reminding yourself to regularly acknowledge effort as well as results.

Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps professionals transition to leadership roles.