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From Suspicion to Collaboration: Tips for Building Trust in the Workplace

From Suspicion to Collaboration: Tips for Building Trust in the Workplace

7 min read


Trust is the heart of being a functioning, cohesive team. A team without trust is not a team, and teamwork is just impossible. So what does trust mean in the context of a team?

Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers only have good intentions. There is no reason to be protective or careful with each other, and each team member must be comfortable with being vulnerable and open with their mistakes and shortcomings.

Vulnerability and openness

What does it mean to be vulnerable and open with your team? It means you can communicate your weaknesses and interpersonal shortcomings, daring to ask for help and recognizing your skill deficiencies. When you are vulnerable and open with your team, it can feel as if you are standing naked in front of them. Although you still have all of your clothes hanging around your body.

It is not easy to be vulnerable with your fellow teammates. If you can overcome the fear of being emotionally naked in front of other team members, you are taking a step in the right direction. Your team members should not have the feeling that they should protect themselves.

When you are vulnerable and can be open, team members feel that you are genuine with them, and you'll gain more respect!

The benefits of trusting each other

When your team has a high level of trust, they can focus on the job and improves team performance. They are not going to get political or strategic with their communication. Every member will have more energy since they are not managing their behaviors and interactions in the group. Increasing the likely hood of you doing a better job.

Signs of team members with lack of trust

  • Hide weaknesses and mistakes from each other.
  • Don't ask for help.
  • Don't give constructive feedback.
  • Hesitate offering help outside of their areas of responsibility.
  • Jump to conclusions about intentions without clarifying them.
  • Fail to use other members' experience and skills.
  • Hold grudges.

Signs of team members with trust

  • Admit weaknesses.
  • Ask for help.
  • Accept questions about their area of responsibilities.
  • Open for feedback.
  • Give team members the benefit of the doubt before jumping to conclusions.
  • Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
  • Tap into each other's skills and experiences.
  • Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics.
  • Offer and accept apologies without hesitation.
  • Looking forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group.

Trust in a leadership team

High-trust companies have a leadership team that trusts one another. They build relationships and meaningful bonds with their team members and peers. It is not easy to create this synergy between team members. Building trusting relationships takes time and effort!

One of the ways to build trust in a team is by having one-on-one meetings with the other leaders at regular intervals. Make sure you use open communication to be an example. When you are vulnerable to your team, the team members learn to be vulnerable themselves.

This can take some time when you work in a political work environment. But don't get discouraged, and keep true to yourself. Admit when you are wrong or made a mistake. Ask for help where your skills don't match the task and see a team member with the skills you are lacking. This will increase the quality of the team's work.

If the leaders use open communication, it helps to encourage people to be open themselves. This keeps office politics out of the team - something we all hate - and creates a high-trust environment.

Remember, team success starts with the leaders being an example.

Another way you can build trust in the workplace is by introducing team-building activities in a team meeting. More on that below!

Team exercises to build trust

Building trust in a team will not happen with the snap of your fingers. It takes time and discipline from all. The whole team should get to know each other on a different level. They need to understand each other's unique attributes and weaknesses.

Here are some focused team-building activities you can do with your team to accelerate the process of building trust.

Personal histories exercise

In this low-risk exercise, the team answers simple personal questions. These questions should not be overly sensitive. It is amazing how little some team members know about each other. When you run this exercise, team members will begin to relate. They see each other as human beings with life stories and backgrounds.

Here are some questions that you could ask:

What is your hometown?
What did you love about your hometown?
How many siblings do you have?
What are your favorite hobbies?
What was your first job?
What was your worst job?

If you run regular meetings or even better retrospectives with this team, you can use the questions above as an icebreaker.

Give team members ⏰ 10 minutes to answer the questions above.
Then go question by question and let every member present it to the team.
The minimum time required for this exercise is 30 minutes.

Team effectiveness exercise

This is a riskier exercise than the previous one. If only building trust could go without taking any risks.

In the team effectiveness exercise, every team member needs to identify the single most important contribution of their team members and the one area they must improve upon or eliminate for the team's good.

Give the team ⏰ 15 minutes to think about their responses.
Afterward, report your responses, focus on one person at a time, and start with the team leader.

Although it seems risky, you'll be surprised by what you learn from each other and how you can extract useful information in about one hour.

Personality and behavioral preferences profiles

An excellent way to better understand your teammates is by getting scientifically valid behavioral descriptions of your team members. There are a lot of profiling tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Everything DiSC. These tools' output is a nonjudgemental description of a personality type. None is better than the other, but there can be a big difference between the types.

Having a description of each team member's type, you can better empathize with them. You know how their personality type thinks, acts, and speaks.

I highly recommend this when working in a virtual team since there are fewer opportunities to get to know each other outside of the office. When they know their character traits, it is better to cope with their emotional responses and their behaviors.

You should get a licensed consultant that helps you run this session. That will give you the best results.


Trust is the most critical characteristic of a team. Discussions will be better with a good foundation of trust since no one needs to be protective. Keep in mind that building trust needs to be worked upon over time. It requires shared experiences and an in-depth understanding of each team member's personality.

Use the team exercises to build trust in your meetings like the personal histories exercise or the team effectiveness exercise. Get a licensed consultant to create personality and behavioral preferences profiles to launch the trust-building in your team!

It is not easy! But keep your eyes on the price. Your unique, trustworthy team!

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