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5 Powerful Ways to Build Trust in Teams

When you feel safe within your team, you are comfortable opening up and supporting each other.

Why is trust so important? It is almost impossible to do anything without trust. Trust is the essence of a harmonious, collaborative, and well-organized workplace.

Without trust, you don’t feel safe. You also start feeling symptoms of dissatisfaction at work:

“A constant need to escape from what has become the discomfort of work. We find ourselves constantly drawn to distractions rather than focusing on our work.” — Billy Schofield

Build a trustworthy environment and a team that people don’t want to leave. Getting to know each other, listening, open communication, fairness, and personality will help establish trust in your team.

1. Get to know each other

You need to get to know other people first. Then you can trust them. It works in all different types of teams.

The process of getting to know each other takes time. It does not happen overnight. Leaders need to get to know their teams. Likewise, teams need to get to know their leaders.

Let them get to know you; they let you get to know them.

It has two sides. Your team needs time to explore the behavior of new colleagues, of a new manager, or a new structure. They see colleagues as strangers and the new office as a foreign environment first.

To support the process of getting to know each other, you don't have to force people to say three fun facts about themselves. You don’t have to do the round of lame introductions.

What you need is TIME.

People need time to talk together, solve problems, and share work. That’s the best way to build relationships and trust. Mingle people around in mini working teams, take them for coffee breaks, simply share moments.

2. Listen to what they say

I met many managers who talked too much in their team meetings. They treated it as a stand-up for their greatness. Bummer! Team meetings are an excellent opportunity to create team unity.

Leaders should not talk at all at team meetings. Let your teams talk to you. It’s tempting to slip and push your ideas forward. Hold your horses if you want them to trust you.

I am going to just spoil it now. People don’t listen to each other. Yet, listening is key. You learn a lot when you are silent. Let others do the talking.

You understand how they think, what motivates them, or what they don’t like. When you harvest such information, you can become the best leader they ever had. So, work on your listening skills.

When you catch yourself preaching around, slap yourself. You won’t be credible if you don’t listen.

3. Be open

If there is one thing that is instantly killing trust, it is withholding information and lying. Leaders can’t say everything all the time. They are bound to confidentiality. But when you have information that is important to your team’s work, you should share it.

Avoid gossip, though, if you can.

Being open means saying things as they are. They might be positive or negative. You don't take preference. Transparent communication builds trust well in the long term. Your team can rely on you, and you can lean on them.

“Leaders are people who are followed,” says Diane Bean, executive vice-president, human resources and communications for Manulife Financial, Canada’s largest insurance company. “People won’t follow a leader they don’t trust. Trust makes it easier to get alignment.

One example of a lack of openness. One manager announced to his team that one team would be fired; the other manager did not. So, gossip started spiraling down the corridors. Be honest with your team. Being a leader means being a human.

4. Drive fairness and equality

Do you remember the famous novel Animal Farm by George Orwell? He wrote: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

You want to be treated fairly. You need to feel you are equal to others to trust them. When you respect your team members, they respect you back.

There is nothing like Orwell described above. A ladder of positions does not mean you are less valuable than your CEO. Your gender, education, or origin does not play any role in how you are treated.

Driving fair behavior is encouraging people to do what is right.

You don’t care about your personal profit or risk. As long as there is fair treatment and shared goals, trust can be established.

It is tempting to prefer one employee over the other. But what creates trust within the team is believing that you are managing your team equally and consistently.

5. Show your personality

It is the easiest, yet, most difficult way of building trust.

Trust yourself

It can be tricky to move into a leadership role. As you don't know how to behave. How can you behave? You are asking yourself what kind of leader you should be. Be you. You are good enough.

Every team is different and every manager too. So, no need to copy and paste one formula around. Embrace yourself and try to be YOU.

You don't have to be like your former managers. You don't have to be too strict or too funny. Do what you think is best for your team.

Don’t be afraid of showing your vulnerabilities. They have them too. Building trust is a dialog that you can’t lead on your own. You might fail in the process. But when you focus on the long-term, you find your way.

Final Thought

People often can’t open up. But if they feel safe, they are willing to be themselves and to support each other. Work on yourself first, listen to them, communicate, and be fair.

Don’t take trust for granted. It needs time to build up. Without trust, your team will suffer from a lack of bold ideas and support. Help your team trust each other, give them time, and trust them.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” — Ernest Hemingway

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