Trust is the bedrock upon which successful teams are built. High-performing teams are characterized by an elevated level of trust. This trust in high performing teams manifests in four distinct ways: teams trust each other to deliver, they trust that they can share new ideas, they trust that they can disagree, and they trust that they can make mistakes. Each of these aspects of trust contributes to the overall success and productivity of the team.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to set the tone and model trust within your team. This involves creating an environment where team members feel safe to share their ideas, voice their disagreements, and admit their mistakes. By doing so, you can foster a culture of trust that drives your team towards high performance.
In this article, we’ll review each type of trust in high performing teams and offer ways leaders can build each.
Teams Trust Each Other To Deliver
Trust in a team begins with the belief that each member will deliver on their commitments. This trust is built on clarity and understanding of each person’s role within the team. When team members understand how their work contributes to the overall team goals, they are more likely to feel accountable and deliver on their commitments. Lack of trust can manifest when people don’t know how their work fits into the team. This can lead to confusion, miscommunication, and ultimately, a failure to meet team objectives.
Regular team huddles can improve clarity and accountability, thereby fostering trust in the team’s ability to deliver. In huddles, the team meets at regular intervals to review progress, set new priorities, and discuss any potential roadblocks. Doing so as a team not only keeps everyone on the same page, over time it can instill a belief in each person that their teammates can deliver on their promises (assuming, of course, the teammates are actually delivering on their promises).
Teams Trust They Can Share New Ideas
High-performing teams are often characterized by their ability to generate and welcome new ideas. This requires a culture of trust where team members feel safe to share their out-of-the-box thinking. Diversity of experiences and perspectives can lead to innovative ideas that drive the team forward. But only if team members feel safe enough to share the innovative ideas that stem from their diverse perspectives.
Leaders play a crucial role in fostering this culture of trust. By modeling active listening and creating an environment where new ideas are considered and valued, leaders can encourage their team members to share their thoughts and contribute to the team’s innovation. When leaders demonstrate how to respect the new ideas of others, hearing them out fully, and discuss them, they not only teach the team how to do so but they send a message to everyone that “crazy” ideas are welcome here.
Teams Trust That They Can Disagree
Disagreements are a natural part of any team’s dynamics. As teammates from different backgrounds, perspectives or experiences discuss their problems or plan out critical tasks, they’re going to disagree on the best way forward. In low-performing teams, this conflict is often avoided, and ideas suppressed. However, in high-performing teams, disagreements are viewed as opportunities for growth and improvement. Team members trust that they can voice their disagreements and have their ideas challenged in a respectful and constructive manner.
Leaders can foster this trust by setting the tone for disagreements. When teammates speak up to disagree with a leader, it’s an opportunity to model respectful dissent and discussion. When teammates disagree with each other, it’s an opportunity for the leader to “referee” the conflict and establish ground rules for keeping conflict task focused. By welcoming disagreements and ensuring that everyone feels heard, leaders can create a safe space for constructive conflict and continuous improvement.
Teams Trust They Can Make Mistakes
Mistakes are inevitable in any team. Teams will make assumptions about the environment or get hit with unexpected changes. Failure on a team is unavoidable even on the highest-performing teams. In low-performing teams, failures quickly turn into blame sessions, which each member trying to save their own skin. However, in high-performing teams, mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities rather than failures. This requires a culture of trust where team members feel safe to admit their mistakes and learn from them.
In dysfunctional teams, people often hide their failures due to fear of judgment or exploitation. Leaders can counteract this by modeling vulnerability and admitting their own mistakes. This can help to build trust and create a safe environment for team members to learn and grow. When a team witnesses a leader taking responsibility for failure or admitting a shortcoming, they’re more likely to trust that leader in the future—and to trust each other.
Trust is the cornerstone of high-performing teams. It manifests in the team’s ability to deliver, share new ideas, disagree constructively, and admit mistakes. As a leader, it is your responsibility to foster this trust within your team. By setting the tone and modeling trust, you can create an environment where your team can thrive and do its best work ever.