All of the best researchers today tell us something we already knew — the more we trust each other and can be true to ourselves, the better we’ll be able to work together. We’ll also be happier, more creative, less stressed and achieve greater outcomes. Building trust in the workplace is something everyone can do. Here are some team building strategies for strengthening trust and authenticity on your team:
Building trust in teams starts with us as individuals. Regardless of your role on the team, you have an opportunity to set a tone and lead by example. And if you manage a team — you have more than an opportunity, you have a responsibility. Ask yourself these questions and think about whether you’re creating a culture of trust on your team:
✓ Have I created effective working relationships with each person on our team?
✓ Do I invest time, and encourage others to make the time to get to know each other?
✓ Do I communicate in a respectful, open, honest and solution-focused way?
✓ Do I tell the truth and follow through?
✓ Do I communicate expectations and give feedback?
✓ Do I show kindness, empathy and compassion for each member of the team?
✓ Do I share, and encourage others to share, challenges, ask for help, and learn from one another?
✓ Do I encourage team members to express differing opinions and perspectives?
✓ Have I set that as an expectation, recognized it as very positive when it happens, and reinforced that it will make all of our thinking better?
✓ Do I feel trusted, and valued?
✓ How do I show that I trust and value others on the team?
✓ Do I have any policies or habits that are eroding the trust on my team and need to change?
✓ Have I worked with the team to determine what “trust” and “authenticity” mean and look like for our specific team? (See the ‘Have a conversation’ tab for specific ideas on how to lead this kind of conversation)
Trust is built through authentic relationships. How do you do that as part of your work? Talk with one another, learn about each other’s motivations, work and communication styles. This does not mean that everyone needs to be an “open book” and share intimate details of their lives. We all have a different comfort level, so you don’t want to push people or make them uncomfortable.
- Check-in. Build time into meetings to check in and see how people are doing
- Enjoy down time. Encourage and schedule team lunches or happy hours
- Quick ways to share. Have fun/light “conversation cards” around the office to spark impromptu conversations (e.g., What was your favorite game at recess in elementary school? What act would you want to do in a circus? If you had a superpower, what would it be?)
- Learn about styles and strengths. Leverage a personality profile tool (e.g., Insights Discovery, Strengths Finder) that highlights each individual’s strengths, potential weaknesses, value to the team, communication preferences, management style, etc. Ask people to share elements of their “report”
- Share key info. Provide a template – like a life map activity – that provides prompts to respond to, and then invite each person to share with the team. Some great prompts focus on core values, what’s important to you, biggest learnings, and where you want to learn and grow. Leave it up to each person to decide what and how much they want to share
Talk about trust, effective relationships, and authenticity as a team to build a common understanding and definitions about what great working relationships actually look like in your team on a daily basis.
- Make a list together. What does authentic mean in your team? What does trust mean in your team? What does it NOT mean? What does it look like in action?
- Develop operating norms. These serve to reinforce the culture of trust and authenticity the team wants to create. The conversation around those norms helps raise what’s important to people in terms of interactions, boundaries, what respect looks like, how to deal with conflict and how to support one another
To build trust in teams it’s important to not take relationships for granted. Investing in high quality relationships at work builds energetic, engaged, and productive teams.
Erin is an Account Lead at Blue Beyond and has been consulting for profit and nonprofit organizations for more than a decade. Erin offers expertise in strategic visioning, change leadership, organizational effectiveness, and talent development. She holds a BA in Psychology and a Master’s in Dispute Resolution.