How to Build Trust on Your Team: 5 Steps for Establishing a Culture of Trust

Over the many years that we’ve been designing and running team building activities, we’ve always emphasized and talked about trust. Trust lies at the foundation of so much of our thinking about team building. It infuses how we’ve discussed things like motivation, team unity and resilience. 

Trust is one of those things that seems easy to say but harder to actually think about. And in all our blog posts, it seems like we might have overlooked this basic building block of team building and productivity.

With the growth of online teams, trust has become even more important as a principle. Remote and hybrid teams need to build a greater culture of trust, since team members are separated physically and aren’t spending time around each other. 

But what is trust really, and how can you create it on your team. We seem to know trust instinctively when we see it, but it can be difficult to describe and to force into being. 

However, there are some ways of thinking about and building trust on teams. It’s not so much about forcing trust where it isn’t there already, but more about creating the right environment in which trust can thrive. 

So in the following blog post, we’ll dig into the concept of trust and how to create an environment that will enrich your team’s sense of trust and connectedness. 

1. Communication

The foundation of trust is good communication. Like in any relationship, trust on teams is built through actively sharing and being open with each other. It’s important to remember that while talking is important, listening is just as important too. In this way, team members can gain trust in each other by feeling valued and supported (see below).

Good, open communication also promotes honesty, which also helps to build trust among team members. When team members are honest with each other, they can more easily implement new or better ways of doing things. They can also be more honest about their needs, which can help reduce potential conflicts. 

And yet, despite the fact that team members spend a lot of time with each other, communication needs to be something that team members are aware of and actively focus on. Team building activities geared towards improving communication skills can therefore create a better environment of trust on teams. 

2. Psychological safety

We’ve talked a lot about psychological safety before, but it is especially important when it comes to engendering trust on your team. Team members need to feel that they are able to voice their feelings and opinions openly without fear of retribution or marginalization. 

In order for team members to trust each other, they also have to be assured that conflict will never get out of hand. Oftentimes, breakdowns in trust happen when conflict spills over into personal relationships. A psychologically safe environment, on the other hand, is one in which disagreement is managed and confined to productive debates about new ideas or strategies.

Psychological safety and trust are really mutually supportive goals. Building a psychologically safe environment for your team can help deepen trust, which in turn can further expand psychological safety. 

3. Support

Related to psychological safety is the idea of support. Support means help, assistance, or resources that are provided by fellow team members, superiors, or by the general work environment or culture. 

No one can do their jobs completely by themselves. That’s the whole point of working together in a team. On a team, you combine skills in a mutually supportive way. This support forms the connective tissue of trust on a team.

As team members learn to support each other more, and as team structures and environments also change to become more supportive of individual team members, trust on your team will jump. 

Team building, which encourages team members to combine skills and help each through unfamiliar situations and challenges, is a great way to build a more supportive and trusting team environment. 

4. Leadership 

Trust on teams is also highly related to effective leadership and leadership structures. Team members often take their cues from others, so having strong leadership that encourages trust among the team can go a long way to building a trusting environment overall.

Leadership doesn’t have to be centralized in either one or only a few individuals either. If a team’s structure is geared at encouraging greater leadership and responsibility among all its members, that too can create lasting positive effects for trust on the team. Team members will feel that their opinions are respected, and that they have the freedom to accomplish what they want. 

That’s why it’s important to see trust not just as a relationship between two people, but as part of a wider environment that includes leadership and motivation. By encouraging members more broadly to become leaders, and promoting team members to take responsibility for the overall team, you can further establish a deep and resilient culture of trust.

5. Clear sense of purpose and goals  

The last step for establishing a culture of trust on your team is to have clearly established and communicated goals and a sense of purpose. This was also a major part of increasing team unity, and in fact they are connected. 

People want to feel that they are working towards something meaningful, and that their cooperation with fellow team members is part of a larger plan in some way. Having a clear set of goals and motives on your team, when done in the right way, communicates that meaning to every team member so that they feel part of the greater team and trust it. 

By doing this, every team member knows what they are working for, and that their fellow team members are the same. Even when there is conflict or disagreement then, team members can fall back on their collective language of purpose and their common understanding of their direction.

So, communicating purpose and goals in a clear way works to establish a trusting atmosphere where team members feel a part of something meaningful. But it also bonds team members together and establishes a language of common understanding and trust.

Conclusion: The role of team building 

Team building activities are a highly effective way of building and increasing trust on your team. Through targeted challenges team building activities like the ones at Invite Japan are designed to promote communication skills, and to make teams aware of how they are supporting and encouraging each other. 

Moreover, our team building activities inspire creativity and thinking outside the box, which can help make team members think about new ways to shape their teams and establish clearer and more meaningful goals.

Whether the activity is online, outdoors, or in your own office, Invite Japan has a team building program that is right for you.    

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