5 Creative Ways to Build Trust in a Team

Building trust in teams is a skill that can require careful management. But it’s well worth doing.  According to a survey by management consulting company Willis Towers Watson, any organisation that has ‘high trust’, “outperforms low-trust organisations by 286%.”

That’s an impressive statistic.

But what are the secrets to building trust? And how do you effectively build trust in teams? And what happens if your team members are around the world in different geographies and time zones?

Building Trust | 5 Creative Ways to Successfully Build Trust in Your Team

Here are 5 powerful ways you can help build trust in a team:

1)  Get people together in the same room

Trust is about people.  Trust is about relationships.  And trust in a team is created through interactions.  You can build trust while apart, but time spent together will speed things up.  If trust is important to you, investing in a team offsite will pay great dividends.  As long as you spend the time well, of course.

2)  Use visuals to bring trust to life

In business, the words we use often create more confusion than clarity.  We might all talk about a need for “trust” and a wish to build “trust” but what does that mean?  Trust is intangible.  People know when it exists and when it doesn’t, but can’t explain why or how it exists.  And building trust in a team seems even harder to describe let alone do.  If you are working with a global team, you also have different languages and cultures to deal with.

A powerful starting point for a team is to bring trust to life.  Suppose they had built trust in the team, how would they know?

What would team members be doing?

How would team members be behaving?

What would other people notice about the team?

Don’t just discuss the answers to these questions.  One helpful technique for breaking down the barriers of jargon is to use the visual language of pictures and graphics.  Suppose you have a global team together in the same room.  Ask them to sketch a scene or scenes of the team performing when trust is high.  The scene makes the abstract idea of trust concrete.  It defines it by the people, the relationships and the interactions on which it’s based.  And producing it is fun, creative and inspiring for all involved – a bonus.

3) Help team members identify what they’re already doing to build trust

Charles H. Green is the author of “The Trusted Advisor“.  He points out trust depends on individuals trusting others and being trusted by others.  “The thing about trusting is that it’s catching.  The way you behave toward others influences the way they respond to you.  Whether you expect the best or worst of people, you’ll almost always be right”

How much trust exists within your team?  Assess how much team members show they trust their colleagues and what they are doing that is trustworthy.  You can use a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is total trust within the team and 1 is complete mistrust.

But a word of caution.  There is a subtle but important technique for using this scale.  It will make the difference between empowerment and deflation.

In my experience, ambitious teams and individuals are naturally critical.  And automatically deficit-focused.  Any discussion around where they are on the scale is likely to focus on all the reasons they’re not at 10.  Such an approach is self-defeating.  It will highlight and magnify the challenges leading to an atmosphere of helplessness.

It is important to brief team members to take an alternative view.  Instead of focusing on “why aren’t we at 10?” help them reflect on “why are we here on the scale and not lower?  What are we already doing to build trust?”  By highlighting examples and behaviours they will identify ideas on how to make progress.  And that will energise them to act on those ideas.

4)  Use written language to ease feedback

Self-assessment of what team members are doing to build trust is helpful but it’s only part of the story.  The other part of the story is feedback from others.

But another word of caution.  The way you manage this is crucial.

You might want every team member to be open and honest in their feedback and helpful in the way they deliver it.  But the reality is that some people will be more comfortable at speaking up in a group than others.  And some people will be better at delivering that feedback productively.

Encouraging team members to write down their comments gives everyone a chance to contribute.  And it forces them to think more carefully about the words they use.

5)  Encourage team members to commit to personal actions

One of the dangers of any team meeting is that actions and agreements stay at the team level.  But “teams” don’t do anything.  It’s team members that take action.  Developing trust in a team relies on individual team members taking action.  They need to display their trust in others and increase their trustworthiness.

Make sure individuals identify and commit to the personal actions they will take to build trust.

Like all aspects of human relationships, trust is a large and complex subject.  But these 5 approaches can help you simplify and speed up building trust in a team.

For more information on how building trust in your team can lead to your business success, please get in touch.

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