Teams produce synergies that individuals can’t, either from a capacity or an ability factor. Working side by side, collaborating, sharing ideas, finding solutions, and supporting one another is what team members should be doing, and most of the time yearn to do. However, if two or more people work together, an element creeps in that has a significant impact on a team’s performance levels – it’s something called TRUST.

Trust, a word with much gravitas and impact, but also one that we often leave entirely on its own to develop. Trust is a psychological state in which we expect positive actions and behaviour from others to a commitment made. In short, trust is doing what we promised to do, or even said we would do, every time. We trust people based on their regular, consistent behaviour, and then label them as trustworthy when they meet our expectations.

In teams, trust means that people are willing to be vulnerable which results in co-operative working with one another. Trust reduces conflict because people are comfortable and confident to express opposing values and opinions. It allows for team participation, sharing of knowledge and information, innovation and builds social bonds.

Distrust is counterproductive and carries an intangible cost for the organisation as a whole. Time is wasted by dealing with hidden agendas, unproductive meetings, incomplete work and miscommunication, or micro-managing people. We don’t trust our teams which results in leaders visibly performing control checks. Distrust slows down the wheels of effectiveness and efficiency. For employees, it zaps all their psychological and cognitive energy, so much so that they become disengaged and lack motivation. It creates clicks of people which need to be managed and can even escalate to such a level that people leave. Distrust eats away at the bottom line, but too often we allow it to continue.

If you acknowledge that trust is not present in your team, what do you need to do?

  1. Be the exemplary role-model by doing what you promised to do and within the set timeline.
  2. Have conversations with the team on the concept of “How would we all benefit if we under promised and over delivered?”.
  3. Be courageous and tackle conflict topics together and have transparent conversations.
  4. Introduce the rule where people present their ideas in meetings, rather than about them in their absence.
  5. Care for others in a genuine and sincere way; share life and work stories with one another.
  6. Set clear expectations by clarifying roles, tasks and commitment dates.

Trust is broken quickly and requires a lot of energy and time to rebuild. In some extreme cases, the damage is so severe that it cannot be fixed. Build trust with your teams – it’s what leaders do to have happy, productive followers.