Consider for a moment someone you trust deeply. Think about why you trust them. What is it that they say or do that makes you believe you can trust them? Conversely, think about someone you do not trust. What is it that they say or do that causes you not to trust them?
From within a team environment, our responses reveal the ‘nature of trust’ and the relevance it has within a team-based context in a workplace environment. The absence of trust between managers and staff or other staff members is not conducive to highly functional work-team output. In fact, the absence of trust can have a direct correlation to other notable team dysfunctions, namely:
- Fear of conflict: Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in an unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.
- Lack of commitment: Without having aired their opinions in the course of open and passionate debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy-in and commit to decisions — though they may feign agreement during meetings.
- Avoidance of accountability: Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviours that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
- Inattention to results: This occurs when team members put their individual needs or even the needs of their department above the collective needs of the team).
Given that trust is such a vital ingredient to the success of the team and the overall organisation, both managers and employees must remain vigilant against the destruction of any trust (remember that you need only make one significant mistake to destroy in an instant the trust that might have been developing over years.
There are a number of actions that managers and team members can take to develop team trust, but trust has to be earned — you cannot mandate that people start trusting one another. However, as a manager and team member, you can facilitate the building of trust in the following ways:
1. Keep Promises
Promises made that are not kept are powerful de-motivators. It takes time and effort to develop trust and seconds to destroy it.
2. Clear the air and recognise opportunities
Frustration and mistrust can build over time and will often reach a point where every action by the other party is seen through a negative frame. Rebuilding trust requires opportunities to listen to another’s point of view, and find a way to see the world through their eyes.
3. Implement trust-building initiatives
Establish effective ‘forums’ (both formal and informal) where people are given the time to understand each other and what drives them.
- Developmental (Non-operational) team meeting agenda items
- Words of Wisdom or motivation from a guest speaker
- Individual or team success recognition
- Individual or team improvement or progress recognition
- Good news stories (both internal and external)
- Out-of-hours social activities
- Community initiatives (e.g. Relay for Life)
4. Develop a team agreement
A team agreement is a simple process that managers and team members can implement in order to establish boundaries around team behaviour and communication. This sets standards for the team to empower and embrace.
Some examples of what may be contained in a team agreement are:
- Listen when another is speaking
- Don’t judge
- Respect differences of opinion
- Don’t resolve differences via email
- Help one another in times of crisis
- ‘Play the ball not the man’ when resolving conflict
- Be specific rather than general (e.g. “you’ve been late to the last three meetings” versus “you’re always late for meetings”).
The use of trust enhancing communication skills is a fundamental part of building relationships of trust within our workplaces. Building and maintaining trust between an employer and employee will often be the foundation of a long-term and mutually satisfying relationship.
Stephen Chong is a professional development coach, keynote speaker and author of “The Book of Testaments”. His focus is on improving the essential ‘people skills’ required by executives and managers in the modern workplace. www.stephenchong.com.au