Building Trust: The Foundation of High-Performing Teams

Posted in Emotional Intelligence, Insights, Motivational, News

Building trust is vital to developing and maintaining strong relationships within the workplace. It's also an essential component of a high-functioning team.

Cultivating a Culture of Trust: Team Building Best Practices

"Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible."  - Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Marshall Connects blog, Building Trust: The Foundation of High-Performing Teams

In the dynamic world of work, one constant remains paramount: the undeniable importance of trust. Trust, or the lack thereof, can make or break teams, departments, and entire organizations. It's the glue that holds individuals together, propelling them toward common goals and fostering high-performance outcomes.

This blog reviews the critical role of trust in the workplace, specifically focusing on its significance as the foundational pillar of high-performing teams. Whether you're a seasoned leader, a new team member, or someone intrigued by the intricacies of teamwork, you're about to embark on a journey to uncover the secrets behind building trust within teams. We'll explore why trust matters in the workplace, how it influences team dynamics and the practical steps you can take to nurture trust and create an environment where high performance thrives.

Understanding The Value Of Developing Trust Within Your Team

The Merriam-Webster definition of trust is, ‘assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.’

In the workplace, this definition lends itself to providing a sense of safety within a team dynamic. You want your employees and team members to feel comfortable sharing and opening up, because that will empower them to be more productive, collaborative, and innovative.

Research from the Journal of Knowledge Management explains that if team members trust one another, they're far more likely to communicate openly and share knowledge freely.

Most would agree that you must get to know anyone before you can build trust with them. Connecting personally with those you work with is vital since co-workers are a significant part of your life. Essentially, they are your work family! As in all families, there are people we enjoy being around and those we don't. Nevertheless, the people within our workplace don't have to be our best friends; however, we do have to work together for the greater good of the team and organization.

Team members who don't invest time to develop a foundational understanding of their role and those they work with may feel detached and struggle to succeed. The disconnect will affect the team's performance, leading to "a lack of chemistry" between colleagues. To avoid this, it is paramount to focus on building trusting relationships to strengthen team dynamics.

Building Trust Is Essential To Relationship Management

Team members should never feel the need to protect themselves from each other. According to Patrick Lencioni, when team members cannot develop trust, it leads to a great deal of wasted time and energy. When working with teams in the workplace, it is evident that interpersonal relationship issues are roadblocks to both synergy and productivity. The good news is there are numerous ways to build trusting relationships.

Several factors must be in play to shape trusting relationships. All team members must feel valued for their contribution, including knowledge and capabilities. Communication is essential, as is respect and understanding for one another. Vulnerability among colleagues encourages a level of intimacy and connection that develops trust in teammates. When authentic and vulnerable employees forge solid, trusting relationships, they create a high-performance environment. Unquestionably, trust is the glue that holds teams together when faced with challenges and setbacks.

Best Practices for Building Trusting Relationships in the Workplace

Here are Lencioni's suggestions for team members, these suggestions will go a long way to building healthy, long-lasting, and trusting relationships in the workplace.

  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes.
  • Ask for help.
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion.
  • Appreciate and tap into one another's skills and experience.
  • Focus time and energy on important issues and not politics
  • Offer and accept apologies without hesitation.
  • Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group.

How To Move Forward When Trust Is Broken

Working effectively in a team is difficult at the best of times. When trust is broken amongst team members, rebuilding those relationships is even more challenging. Using emotional intelligence to support relationship-building with all employees and team members is the best way to move forward. Improving your self-awareness is a critical component of emotional intelligence, so consider taking an EQ-i Self-Assessment to provide a personal analysis of your perception of your behaviour. 

Remember that rebuilding trust is a process that may only sometimes be successful. It depends on the individuals involved and the nature of the trust breach. Be patient and committed to the process, but also be prepared for the possibility that trust may not be fully restored.

 In my book, The Power of Emotion, I emphasize the emotional and physical investment of time and energy to develop trust, so it's not difficult to imagine the effort involved in repairing it. The longer the distrust occurs, the more it affects morale, retention, and the team's overall productivity. Regardless of who is responsible for the situation, behavioural change must occur, and it must be authentic and consistent to begin regaining trust. 

Fostering trust plays a crucial role in cultivating and sustaining robust workplace connections, serving as a fundamental element in the cohesion of a high-performing team.

This article was originally published on March 10, 2018, and has been updated (September 2023).

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