Building a trusting, high-performing team

“How do you build trust within a team?”

“What are the most important things needed for effective teamwork in the workplace?”

“How do I create a REAL team at work?”

Leaders often come to TWE looking for these answers.  They may have the feeling that something just isn’t right in their world.  They may sense there is some underlying tension on the team.  In these teams people are nervous – in the worst case, teams can become battlegrounds.

Lesson 1 – Yes You Can!

“Can I learn to influence, guide and improve togetherness and trust?” 

Most certainly.  If you want your team to be high-performing, it’s a moral imperative. 

Lesson 2 – Yes You Should!

Trusting teams out-perform teams with trust issues, always.  

Teams that are trusting and together, can face almost any challenge.

Together teams have higher engagement and enjoy all the perks that brings, from better profitability and lower turn-over to higher safety and confidence in front of customers.

Getting there is another matter.

Lesson 3 – It’s important to see the pursuit of these two states as separate.  

Togetherness is a feeling of belonging, among friends, colleagues or family.  

Trust is the belief in others’ logic, empathy and authenticity. 

Lesson 4 – Your first job – set an expectation of what togetherness means for your team. This is the end-state.

More often than not I find individuals on teams have different concepts of what togetherness means. For some, it may be a sterile professional relationship that’s very efficient, while for others it may be the ability to open up about personal issues and what happened on the weekend. So my first suggestion is if you want to increase togetherness on your team first understand what togetherness is to your team.

It is important that growing “togetherness” is like growing a garden.  It requires nutrients, good soil, and patience. If it’s going to be real, It’s got to develop naturally. You can’t force it. You can, however, stifle and destroy it if you’re not careful. If you find that people are working against one another, overly competitive, or isolating themselves and building Empires, you need to take a serious look at what is influencing that behaviour.

Lesson 5 – You must start with Trust.

Trust is something that I found is more easily engineered, and because it is a precursor to togetherness, I will start my work with teams of managers, executives, or Boards of directors, by addressing the fundamentals of trust.

Unfortunately, trust is something we assume we already have.  After all, we’re all professionals on the same team right?  Sadly, no.

Acid Test:  Could you give your most important decision – the one your boss or most important client is depending on – to someone else on your team to handle?  (P.S. you still might be the subject matter expert)  Ok, that might be inefficient – and that’s expected.  But if that sounds impossible – or completely crazy – you’ve got work to do.

While there are many models for this that you can follow, and lots of writing on the subject, I find the formula is rather simple.  I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t deal with a person’s inherent trust issues. I approached it from the leadership side. If you’re a leader, do you want to be trusted? If the answer is yes, how do you become more trustworthy? Imagine what happens on a team where everyone is seeking to be credible and reliable and acting for the good of the team.

Lesson 6: Trust Is Demonstrated!

Behaviorally, what we instill in leaders and teams is relatively simple.

The TWE 5 Behaviours to Build Trust Among Team Members: 

  1. Tell people what you’re going to do, treat it as a promise. 
  2. Deliver what you promised. 
  3. Do this reliably and consistently – over and over again.
  4. If you’re unsure of something ask and seek clarification. 
  5. If you’re in danger of not delivering what you originally promised, be transparent, set a new Target, and then deliver on that promise! 

If people you work with do this over and over, you will trust their ability to provide.

Lesson 7: Even Smart Leaders Have Trouble Building Teams.

But while it sounds simple – there are usually many obstacles in a team’s way.  Some they can see easily, others are hidden.  Some are emotional, others are ideological.  All are hard for a person or team to overcome without help.  Need proof? Here’s my answer: “If it was easy, you’d have already done it!”

Team-by-team, there are many areas of trust to be worked on, and I won’t attempt to answer all of those here. To maintain trust and togetherness ensure that you create an environment where everyone on the team can win. Treat failure as a step in the process,  don’t entertain political maneuvering, work on the flow of communication within the organization, and Lead with facts.

Above all, as a leader, don’t beat yourself up for not being able to make easy progress… but also don’t insist on struggling when you don’t have to go it alone.

Lesson 8:  It’s Your Choice To Face It.

Establishing trust on a team is a choice that members make. You may need help to disrupt your team so they can realize they each have a responsibility to the other… and that they have the power to decide. Don’t forget; you have to hold yourself accountable for that choice as well.

Lesson 9:  When You’re Done, You’ll Have A Team For Life.

When a trust-rich team focuses on the work at hand and pursues shared success for all – it creates opportunities to find agility, efficiency, and profitability.  A team that faces challenges together, will have the capacity to become a winning team. 

Lesson 10:  There is a difference between leading a team and being part of a team.  

Your team is really their team. Yes, you can have loyalty, passion, and a critical role to play on the team you manage.  But it is very difficult to make this your #1 loyalty (especially in large organizations).  Your first loyalty has to be to the team you’re on (under a leader with others).  Your attention needs to be on helping your team navigate the wider world.  That means you have to keep your eyes up and participate fully at your own strategic level.