The T in Team

Trust is absolutely essential for a team to thrive. Think about it … trust is critical in any relationship because a relationship without trust is not really a relationship at all! As businesses continue to shift from cubicles to team-oriented workplaces, developing team building skills (trust included) is becoming necessary for success. And you want to be successful, right? Of course you do!

Dictionary.com defines trust as:
  1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
  2. confident expectation of something; hope.

Absolutely beautiful, isn't it?
Is it possible to have a team without trust? Not a successful one, that's for sure.

In order for a team (any kind of team) to function properly, every member must do what they promise, on time and as expected. Even harder, everyone on the team has to trust that every other member is going to make good on their commitments.

Easy right? (insert LOLcano here)

I've only officially been in a leadership role for 6 months now, but I can tell you with full assurance that a team without trust will collapse at the first sign of struggle. I say officially because I've been a leader my entire life; although I was always picked last in gym class, I was always the sucker who stepped up to lead group projects in school (and wound up doing most all of the work because I HAD to get an A).

I know, I know – trusting someone can be scary! Like many of you, I've put my trust in the wrong people and been disappointed and hurt.

I will never be able to control what anyone else does/says/thinks but I can control what I do/say/think. I can make damn sure that I do everything within my power to demonstrate that my word is good, that I am trustworthy (true, accurate, honest, faithful).

According to The Third Opinion: How Successful Leaders Use Outside Insight to Create Superior Results, there are three fundamental distinctions of trust: personal, expertise, and structural.



Personal trust develops in the workplace from shared tasks and an understanding of what makes your teammates tick so to speak.  It is being confident that your teammate won’t let you down when it counts, and vice versa.

When developing personal trust, you might ask the following questions about your teammate(s):
  • On a personal level, do I trust this person? 
  • Do I believe this person is honest, ethical, and well-intentioned? 
  • Do I believe s/he will make good when s/he gives his/her word? 
  • Do I believe this person will handle confidential information with care and 
discretion?

Expertise trust comes from competence and knowledge in a particular subject matter or process. Expertise trust focuses on the knowledge, judgment and thinking abilities of someone else.

When developing expertise trust, you might ask the following questions about your teammate(s):
  • Do I trust that this person is an expert in his/her field? Is their knowledge current and up-to-date? Do I trust the information they gather to inform and support their opinions?
  • Do they have an ability to understand my situation and apply their knowledge to it? 
  • Do I trust their judgment regarding risk, options and tradeoffs? 
  • Do they have the ability to innovate and develop custom solutions to hard problems?

Structural trust refers to how much someone’s position or role affects your confidence that s/he will be able to deal with you straightforwardly.

When developing structural trust, you might ask the following questions about your teammate(s):
  • Do they have a personal agenda? 
  • Are they in a role where their judgment and thinking is likely to be significantly influenced by their need to advance their goals, self-interests, or advocacy?
A person trusts a team when s/he believes that team members make good-faith efforts to stick to commitments, are honest in negotiations, and don't take advantage of one another even when the opportunity presents itself.

Trust is one of the key ingredients necessary for a team to succeed, and teams of all types must remain firmly rooted in trusting relationships if they are to function effectively.

How do you build trust within your team/organization?

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