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How To Build Trust In A Team: 12 Things You Can Do Today
how to build trust with your team

How To Build Trust In A Team: 12 Things You Can Do Today

By Steve Pogue

Gaining the trust of your team is crucial, especially with the rise of coronavirus. Trust increases team morale, improves efficiency, and helps you react faster to change. But, building trust doesn’t happen overnight. It can be a daunting undertaking for any leader, especially one who is walking in new to an already established team. Here are twelve essential things you can start doing now to build and maintain trust with your team.

How To Build Trust In A Team: The List

1. Start by getting your mind right

The easiest way to build trust is to start on day one. Whether you’ve just started the job, hired new employees, or gathered a team for a new project, getting off on the right foot is much simpler than trying to turn things around later.

What if you’re already past that point? It’s never too late to decide that today is going to be day one and start over. Have a frank conversation with your team that you realize some work needs to be done to create a culture of trust and that you intend to start fresh as of today. Then follow the next eleven tips to create positive change. 

Do it today: Mentally start by deciding today is the day using the rest of the tips here plus the bonus tip.

2. Be honest

Trust is built on honesty. Your team will never trust you if they believe you’re not always honest with them. While it may be tempting to lie or fudge the truth a little sometimes to avoid conflict or save face, it can destroy your relationship with your employees. Admitting you made a mistake will help your team trust you and encourage them to also admit it when they mess up. 

Part of being honest is also admitting when you don’t know something. New leaders can feel pressure to prove their knowledge and experience to their team. But, if you try to bluff an answer and you’re wrong, you’ll destroy your credibility and erode trust. 

Do it today: Before your next meeting, write out how you normally would deliver news or updates on objectives. Then, read what you wrote and see if you were as honest as you can be. If not, re-write, a re-read until you’re confident in the message. Exercises like this is how to build trust in a team.

3. Act consistently

It’s essential that your actions and expectations remain consistent. While everyone has bad days, if your team never knows how you’ll respond from one day to the next, they’ll be hesitant to approach you, especially with bad news. Focus on providing a stable and calm atmosphere at all times. If you’re having an off day, be upfront about it, so your team doesn’t have to wonder and guess about what’s different. 

Set concrete expectations for yourself and your team, and be sure to enforce them unfailingly. When teammates know what is expected of them and what they can’t get away with, there’s less doubt, less chance of questionable behavior, and greater trust. 

4. Publicly praise / privately criticize

When your employees exceed expectations, make sure to publicly praise their achievements. Not all employees feel comfortable being the center of attention, so keep that in mind when you choose how to praise them. Some options are: acknowledging their efforts in a team-wide email, bringing it up at a meeting, or posting a bulletin somewhere the team can see (such as in your collaboration software.)

On the other hand, when someone makes a mistake, handle it in private. Your employees need to know you have their backs and won’t throw them under the bus or criticize them in front of their peers. As the manager, it’s your job to stand up for your team and shoulder the blame if things go sideways, even when it’s not directly your fault. Afterward, you can privately discuss the issue with your employee to help prevent it from happening again. 

5. Respond constructively

Everyone makes mistakes. At some point, every member of your team will likely do something they shouldn’t have. It’s vital you view these as learning opportunities and respond in a positive and constructive manner. If you react harshly, it will break down trust and can encourage them to hide or deny future mistakes. 

When your team knows you will support them rather than scold them, their trust in you will grow. Try to focus on the solution, the lesson learned, and the path forward rather than the problem. 

6. Listen

When you’re confident in your abilities and your plan’s success, it can be tempting to forge ahead. But, if you ignore the ideas and concerns of your employees, intentionally or not, they won’t trust you to lead them. Whenever employees raise questions or voice concerns, make sure you actively listen to what they say and why they’re saying it. 

It can be difficult for an employee to disagree with their boss. When they do, if you show you respect their opinion and take what they say seriously, it will build their trust. Make sure you look at things from their point of view and try to give them the benefit of the doubt. 

7. Communicate

You may notice that most of these tips are centered around what you say and how you say it. That’s because communication is central to building trust. The more you openly communicate with your employees in a positive, effective manner, the more they will trust you. 

If you hold information back from your team, they’re left on their own to try to figure it out, which can lead to gossip, unfounded worries, and drops in morale. If changes are coming, or you have info that may impact your team, share it with your employees. Over-communicating is generally more beneficial than under-communicating. 

8. Collaborate

Ultimately, as the leader, you will have to make the final decision on many things. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t involve your team in the decision-making process. Include your team in strategy discussions, project decisions, and brainstorming sessions. 

By inviting their contributions, you’re showing you trust them, which will help build their trust in you as well. Employees may have amazing ideas but be hesitant to speak up. By actively including them and seeking their opinions, you can encourage them to share more, and trust you more. 

9. Delegate

Micromanaging sends the signal that you don’t trust your team. If they don’t believe you trust them, they’re unlikely to trust you either. By delegating tasks and empowering your team members to do things on their own, you help create an environment of trust.

You don’t need to be entirely hands-off to build trust. You can assign people tasks and then use your project management software to check for updates and ensure they are on track without peering over their shoulder all the time. You can ask for updates at pre-agreed times (such as in weekly meetings), and otherwise, give them the space to prove they’re capable. 

Do it today: If you aren’t using a project management tool like Workzone, get a few team members together to help you decide what you would need in a tool to be more productive. By enlisting their help, they will feel empowered and responsible for the new project…all while team trust grows.

10. Walk the walk

As we’ve already mentioned, when you show your employees that you trust them, it can help build their trust in you. It’s essential that you model the behavior you want to see from your team. If you want them to work late, but you go home early, it creates a sense of unfairness that won’t help you gain their trust. 

Avoid asking anything of your employees that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. Also, don’t do anything you don’t want your team to do. For instance, if you don’t want your team to gossip, make sure you never gossip either. 

11. Prove your competence

Demonstrating expertise can help increase your team’s trust. Keep in mind that no one expects you to be an expert in everything. If you have a lead engineer on your team, you don’t have to turn into an engineering expert for them to trust you. But, by demonstrating expertise in your own field, their confidence in you will increase. 

Make sure you’re always prepared for meetings and are up-to-date on significant project and business information. Stay organized and up to date on key deliverables, milestones, deadlines, and objectives. The more you show that you’re on top of things, the more your team will trust you. 

12. Follow through

It’s easy to make promises and plans, but much harder to follow through on them. If you promise to look into something or do something for your team, make sure you always follow through. If you fail to do something you said you would, people will doubt your future promises as well. 

If something unavoidable stops you from following through, make sure you clearly explain what happened and why. You need to show your team that it was an unexpected issue, and it won’t happen again if you want to maintain their trust. 

Bonus: Team Building

If your team doesn’t have a culture of trust, team-building exercises may be a way to start building the foundation. These exercises can help build their trust in each other and illustrate that you’re committed to creating an environment of trust. Check out this article to discover 22 team-building activities people actually want to do. 

Summary: How To Build Trust In A Team

In conclusion, it’s critical for business success that you can build trust in a team. Without them trusting you and each other, employee morale can crumble, and projects can tank. Unfortunately, it takes time and effort to create and maintain an environment of trust. But, the good news is that with these twelve tips, you can start building trust with your team right away. 

If you think having an easy-to-use, powerful project management tool can help you build trust in your team, let’s talk.

Steve Pogue is the Marketing Operations Manager at Workzone. He writes about project management tips and the buying process. When not at Workzone, you can find him playing vintage base ball or relaxing with his family at home.