Building trust between team members

Building trust between team members is very essential for the development of a high performance team. I myself saw a lot of cases where teams performed poorly or even became dysfunctional due to the absence of trust between team members, despite the high capability of each individual in the team. The purpose of this post is to suggest several techniques that team members or managers can use to build up trust within the team.

In order to build trust, it is also helpful to be able to recognize the behaviors that may show an absence of trust between team members:
  • Team members usually try to show that they are better than the others. They rarely, or never, share about their weaknesses.
  • Team members avoid to admit the mistakes that they make.
  • Team members hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility or provide constructive feedback to the others.
  • Team members doubt other’s skills and commitment.
  • Team members avoid meetings or spending time to work on an issue together, thinking that is a waste of time.
  • Team members jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them.
  • Team members are reluctant, or refuse, to share performance goals with others.

No trust

There are many articles writing about how to build trust within the team but in my opinion, the tips suggested in those articles are too general to be easily applied. Therefore, using my own experience, I suggest several detailed ways that can be used to build trust between team members:
  • Encourage team lunch or one-on-one lunch for team members to communicate and know more about the others. Such events will help team members to share about themselves and learn from the others in many topics: background, family, education, hobbies, strengths and weaknesses. From there they can realize their similarities and the capabilities of the others, which can increase the likeliness of trust, as discussed in Hurley’s model for trust. From my experience, one-on-one lunch is more effective than team lunch for this purpose. People tend to share more about themselves when they are one on one with another, but not in a big group.
  • Setup funny quizzes that reveal team members’ individual information (such as hobbies, skills, education, past experience, strengths and weaknesses…) and have rewards for the winner. This encourages team members to know more about each other and people tend to trust others who they know more about.
  • Organize team building activities that encourage trust and collaboration between team members such as:
    • Paintball: Make sure that the trusters and trustees are in the same team
    • Rock climbing: One team member relay for another and vice versa. Make sure that team members know how to relay and follow all safety instructions.
  • Schedule days when team members work together in pair to know more about others’ strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, working in pair also help team members to experience the feeling of “achieving something together”, which make it easier to build trust between them.

Rock climbing

So those are very detailed suggestions that team members and managers can practically apply to build trust within the team. However, those suggestions alone may not be very helpful if the organization culture does not value trust. Therefore, it is also very essential to create an organizational culture where everyone “walks the talk” and has high commitment to their promises. Where trust is achieved and valued, high performance teams are born.

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2 thoughts on “Building trust between team members

  1. Pingback: A model for trust | Agile Vietnam

  2. Pingback: Empowerment in organizations | Agile Vietnam

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