Without trust, a team cannot function effectively – wherever they are and whatever they are doing.
How do we build trust in teams?
Despite the importance of trust in the effective operations of teams, there were very few tools to actually help build trust. Through research carried out by Oxfam, they have identified the following actions:
- Building team awareness and collaboration around the importance of trust by sharing experiences, storytelling and creating opportunities for the team to communicate and bond
- Establishing a means for communicating and working together as a team – focusing on cultural and individual differences
- Helping team members get to know each other with an emphasis on developing trusting relationships
Given the importance of trust in team performance, the 10 Criteria of Trust can help you nurture it within your team.
Do we think people can do the jobs they need to do? And do we know they won’t let us down? For instance, when we take planes, we trust pilots to take us to our destination. We trust them because we believe they are competent at their jobs.
Are people sharing information fully and for the best outcome for the team? If people don’t share information with us we can become suspicious – remember information is power. Sometimes information can’t be shared but it is important for colleagues to understand why that is the case. On the other hand, when people share information with us it sends a positive signal that they do trust us, and we are more likely to in turn trust them.
Do people do what they say they will do? If people keep their promises, we are more likely to trust them. On the other hand it is sometimes tempting to promise things, not to say no, in order to please people. But trust can break down really quickly if we say one thing and do another.
Can you see that your colleagues trust you, and are you then more inclined to trust them back? Someone’s trusting you makes it easier for you to trust them. But if we feel someone is not trusting us, this can lead to the opposite where mistrust can create a damaging and negative environment.
Do you share values, history, interests and objectives with your colleagues? Most of us will feel more comfortable and likely to trust those we feel are “like us.” If understanding someone who likes and knows what you like can be easy, building trust with someone with different expectations, aspirations and experiences is more challenging, but just as important.
Do you care about your colleagues and do your colleagues care about you? The work a team does can be demanding and stressful and everyone needs their colleagues to help them out from time to time. If my colleagues value my contribution to the team, notice how I feel and take the time to get to know what matters to me outside of work, I will find it easier to trust them. If I also look out for them, they are more likely to do the same with me. This will be even more important to build trust in cultures where personal relationships are extremely important.
Are your colleagues consistent in their behaviours in different contexts and over time? For example when I lend money to a good friend, I am able to assess the risk as I have known their behaviour over time, so I know how likely it is they will repay me.
Do I feel I have nothing to fear from my team members? Can I make genuine mistakes without being judged when something goes wrong it is easiest to point the finger and blame someone for it, but it is difficult to trust people if we are afraid of them. We can become defensive, there is less communication, less initiative and less innovation in the team. A sign of this could be when people start asking for everything in writing.
Is anyone left out or excluded from the team? Do people feel actively included in the teams’ social and work activities? Some people are more social than others and some like to be alone more. In teams divisions can also form around culture or nationality, as some people may for example need time with others who share their mother tongue. All of this is natural, but we all need to be included in important team activities so that these differences don’t damage team spirit.
Do we feel others can be approached easily and are open about their feelings? If so, it will usually lead others to trust them more easily. Some people share their emotions while others may keep their thoughts and feeling to themselves, which can make them appear distant and uncommunicative. Accessibility may be more valuable in some cultures than others.
These criteria can be sub-divided into two significant categories – Swift Trust and Deeper Trust:
- Quick trust or swift trust can be more readily achieved and are necessary during the early stages of a team’s existence. The relevant criteria for trust are: competence, openness, integrity, reciprocity.
- The deeper level of trust takes more time to establish and requires continual effort in every aspect of the team’s work. The relevant criteria of trust are: compatibility, goodwill, predictability, well-being, inclusion, accessibility.
Source: © Oxfam GB for the ECB Project