Teams produce synergies and a form of collaboration that individuals can’t do on their own, either from a capacity or an ability factor.

Working side by side, collaborating, sharing ideas, finding solutions, and supporting each other is what team members should be doing, and, in most cases, want to do. A team that trusts each other is incredibly powerful, as they will achieve a level of performance, productivity, and satisfaction that one person on their own is not able to. However, if two or more people work together, something creeps in that has a significant impact on a team’s performance levels. This is what is known as TRUST.

What is trust?

Trust is something that everyone approaches differently. For some, trust is given to a person, and then “points” are deducted for every breach that happens. For others, you’ll start at zero and will have to earn their trust through actions. The approach you apply doesn’t matter; it’s based on your personality, style, and life experience. Either way, trust is something that holds much gravitas, but it can often be left entirely on its own to develop within teams.

Trust is defined as a psychological state in which we expect positive actions and behaviour from others, to a commitment made. A trust equation has therefore been designed, and it says that trust equals credibility plus reliability plus intimacy. So, it’s about doing what we promised to do, or even said we would do, every single time. We tend to trust people based on their behaviour, and then label them as trustworthy when they meet our expectations. The intimacy variable means that people communicate, participate, and engage actively with others. This variable can often be overlooked, but as social creatures we generally trust when people interact with us.

Trust in teams

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

Distrust, on the other hand, is counterproductive, and carries an intangible cost for the organisation as a whole. Time is wasted because people have to deal with hidden agendas, unproductive meetings, incomplete work, miscommunication, or having to micro-manage others. When there is distrust, leaders will visibly perform control checks on all their staff. 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 cliques in teams, something that needs to be carefully managed, as it can escalate to such an extent that people will leave. If left unaddressed, distrust becomes a cancer and will infiltrate the organisation’s culture, resulting in a toxic working environment. It will also eat away at the bottom line. However, this is something that we allow to continue, all too often.

If you become aware that there is no trust in your team, you need to start with these six small steps. Rebuilding trust takes patience and continuous work, but it is something that can be achieved with dedication and commitment.

  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 how everyone would benefit if they all under- promised and over-delivered.
  3. Be courageous and tackle difficult topics together. Have transparent conversations.
  4. Invite people to present their ideas in meetings. Be careful not to be judgemental.
  5. Care for others in a genuine and sincere way. Share life and work stories with each other.
  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.

Transform distrust into trust with your teams – it’s what leaders do to have happy and productive employees.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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