You need to make sure lots of pieces fall into place for a business to succeed, but none are as important as the people you work with, and a good team is built on trust. Previously, we looked at active listening, and it’s extremely critical. Whether a small group working in an office or a large organization distributed around the world, the principles of team trust are the same: mutual respect, open communication, and the feeling of safety (e.g., job security) between employees and management.
With fear of an economic downturn in the air and the tech industry currently going through one of the largest employee shakeups in decades, putting energy into team trust has never been so important. Employees need to feel valued, confident, and secure in their roles in order to be successful in their work – and successful for your company.
To help you navigate this, we’ve put together a guide on how to build trust in your team, including:
Why it’s important
Practical team trust strategies
Creating the foundation for long-lasting team trust
Team building activities you can do today (even if you’re remote!)
Why Is Trust Important for Your Team?
Whether between employee and manager, customer and company, or individual teammates, our work lives are made up of relationships. And, just like with personal relationships, trust is vital for us to share thoughts and feelings, collaborate effectively, and feel secure.
When trust is achieved, employees are able to take risks, express themselves, and innovate in their work – all of which are vital to a strong growth enterprise. In low-trust teams, people feel held back by office politics and the feeling of being “left in the dark,” resulting in lower productivity, while when trust is high, productivity blossoms.
One 2015 study in the UK found that higher levels of average employee trust in managers could improve workplace financial performance, labor productivity, and product/service quality. Meanwhile, a 2017 study published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that people at high-trust companies reported 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction, and 40% less burnout when compared with those at low-trust companies.
How to Build Trust Within Your Team
Trust is hard won, and to get the ball rolling in the workplace, you must look towards some time-tested team-building strategies. Team building isn’t just going paintballing one weekend; it’s an ongoing process that aims to create positive change within your organization. In this case, improving team trust.
Each team-building strategy we’ve outlined below focuses on one or more of the critical components of team trust: encouraging mutual respect, creating more open communication, and fostering a sense of security. Combined, these strategies can help develop a more productive and cohesive company.
Set expectations for your team, yourself and upper management – and stick to them!
Having clear roles and expectations lets everyone know exactly what their role includes, which helps employees feel secure and confident in their work. Moreover, clear expectations can reduce friction and interpersonal conflicts that could develop when employees overstep what someone else considers “their role.”
Ensuring that upper management sticks to these expectations is more important since failure to live up to expectations is a quick path to losing trust.
Give your team the space they need to do their jobs
Once you have set clear expectations and roles, there shouldn’t be any need to micromanage employees in a high-trust workplace. While it can be hard to let go at first – especially if you’ve built your company from the ground up – giving your team the freedom to work independently is a good sign of mutual respect and a surefire way to grow a better company.
Foster interpersonal relationships
This is the “traditional” team-building strategy in which employees bond on a personal level. It’s a vital step towards creating a team culture where everyone feels secure; removing office politics, professional cliques, and the lack of interaction that can hinder collaboration.
This team building can be done at an individual team level – which we’ll talk more about later – or across an entire company with programs like formal mentorships.
Create a clear process for giving and receiving reviews and feedback
Open communication is the cornerstone of team trust, and however close your organization is on a personal level, it’s essential to have formal channels for reviews and feedback. This way, everyone knows where they stand, allowing them to tap into or give feedback when needed while not worrying about being blindsided by some constructive criticism.
This can be especially important for remote teams, where employees don’t have the opportunity to sit down and talk through concerns and considerations with managers or other team members.
Recognize and reward accomplishments
When it comes to honest feedback, it’s just as important to know when to praise and reward team members for their work. Doing so can help build respect and a feeling of security and open the door for other team members to offer commendations, building team morale.
Rewards can range from simple public acknowledgment, like saying “well done” on a team call, to monetary bonuses for exceptional work.
Think about the future of your team as a team
If everyone works with one foot out the door, they’ll never give 100%. The clearest way to let your team know they are valued, respected company members is by investing in their future. Offer opportunities for employees to grow professionally and personally through formal training or internal company initiatives.
It’s worth noting that underinvesting in employee development can have very negative consequences. In the same 2015 study mentioned earlier, researchers found that restricting access to training could erode team trust.
The Structures of Team Trust
Good strategies are built on solid structures, which for team trust is all about clear and open communication. Your people need the right channels to keep their collaborative teamwork flowing, which in the era of digital work includes:
- Video Meetings – vital for everything from one-on-one feedback sessions to full-team meetings, video/audio conferences have become an integral part of most companies’ communications platforms.
- Interactive Whiteboards – some form of digital workspace where team members can operate in unison is vital for fostering collaboration and creating team cohesion. Make sure that it includes the features you need like inline images, video, or code.
- Tasks & To-Do Lists – a key part of team trust building is setting clear expectations and roles. A robust task-management program allows you to take a hands-off approach to managing your team’s workflow, giving them the space they need to shine.
- Group Chat – having everyone able to communicate openly as a group is crucial to improved team trust and general team building. Group chat channels can be used for formal project planning as well as more informal relationship building – they are the water coolers of the modern day for teamwork from home.
- Business Chat – having less formal conversational messages between team members is central to building interpersonal relationships. These, as discussed, go a long way toward improving team trust and improving overall productivity.
The last two channels are also a great way to improve transparency in your team, which is an integral part of trust building. “With Spike, I can be ultra-responsive, and I can also easily check others’ responsiveness to me. With deadlines and launches, that transparency conveys a lot of information,” says Guy Gamzu, an independent Angel investor.
Depending on your company, the importance of channels for your team trust program will differ. What’s more, this list doesn’t include the channels you’ll need just to keep the business running, like email and voice calls. However, having these communication structures in place is a great way to ensure your team trust-building has the best chance of success.
Team Building Activities You Can Do Today
With your communication structures and trust-building strategies in place, you may be wondering how to kick off this new era of team collaboration. We’ve put together some great team-building resources you can use right now to start improving team trust, whether working remotely, in-office, or a hybrid mix.
- The Best Team-Building Activities for Conference Calls: this covers seven amazing team-building activities that you can do on a conference call.
- Seven Ice Breakers for Team Meetings: start breaking the ice and building trust with these team meeting activities designed to help team members get to know each other.
- Get Active, Get Aligned with Walking Meetings: a guide on how walking meetings could just take your team to the next level.
- Create a Safe Environment with Effective Brainstorming Techniques: learn how you and your team can make brainstorming productive again – no more wasted meetings!
- Explore Emotional Intelligence Team Building Activities: learn how talking about your feelings at work can actually help boost productivity.
It’s Time to Start Building Trust in Your Team
Trust is vital for a strong team, and a strong team is essential for a successful business. Whatever size or structure your organization is, it’s important to ensure team trust is a core part of your company culture. This means building mutual respect, open communication, and a sense of security between employees and management in the workplace.
Even in the good times, team trust can improve productivity, reduce stress, increase satisfaction, and reduce burnout at work. But now, with recession a real possibility, having trust in your team, and them having trust in you, has never been more important. Next up, we’ll look at the ways managers can give constructive feedback.
Check Out The Entire Team Leadership Series
- Rediscovering Healthy Team Leadership for 2024
- Leadership Styles: The Ultimate Guide for 2024
- Traits for Success: The Must-Have Skills for Effective Team Leaders
- How to Build and Maintain a High-performing Team
- Setting Team Goals
- The Art of Active Listening
- How to Build Trust and Rapport With Your Team
- How to Provide Feedback and Recognition to Your Team
- How to Manage Conflict Within a Team
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