Reliance on Teams: 7 Ways to Promote Greater Trust, Collaboration and Teamwork 

Reliance on teams is critical if you want strong and resilient teams. Here we look at 7 ways to improve reliance on teams and build more trusting work environments.  

Reliance is an often overlooked aspect of team building. And as we said before in our last blog post, the term comes with a bit of baggage that can make people uneasy with it. So that makes the task of boosting reliance on teams much more difficult. 

However, as we argued before, reliance is really necessary for teamwork to happen. If team members don’t rely on each other, then the whole concept of the team collapses. Reliance is also the basis for trust on teams, which again provides a major cornerstone for how teams think and act together. Therefore, teams have a strong incentive to boost reliance, or rather, improve team members’ openness to relying on others without worrying about marginalization or ostracization. 

So in the following blog post, we continue our discussion about reliance on teams by examining some of the ways that both individuals and groups as a whole can give reliance a more central and acknowledged role in the team, and encourage team members to rely on each other more.  

What team members can do

1) Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability 

One of the most important things that team members can do to increase reliance on teams is to be more open to showing vulnerability. Vulnerability is at the very heart of relying on others, since reliance requires that we acknowledge that we need other people’s help for something

There are many ways to show this vulnerability, from asking a coworker to help out on a difficult task, to getting advice from a more experienced team member, to opening up to someone a little during a lunch or coffee break and sharing what’s going on in your life.  

However, many team members are encouraged to do just the opposite– to pretend that they alone can solve everything and not ask for help because it shows weakness. The truth is, though, that we do need help from other people, especially on teams where combining strengths and skills is the whole point.

While it can be hard to show vulnerability in many work environments, it is worth it to try. Even if you make some slight changes, and rely on your fellow team members just a little more it can lead to major breakthroughs over time. 

Making that first step of showing vulnerability and relying on others actually makes you and the team stronger in the end. Not only does it allow for a more honest assessment of what your skills and limits are, it also builds stronger linkages of trust between you and your team members, creating an overall stronger team environment.   

2) Don’t let your assumptions control you

One of the major obstacles to showing vulnerability, and therefore creating more reliance on teams, is that we as individuals carry assumptions. These assumptions include what we think other people are like, what we think other people think of us, and how we view our team as a whole.

Sometimes these assumptions are necessary, and they are definitely not always controllable. However, what we definitely don’t want to do is let these assumptions trap us in one way of looking at or thinking about people.

If that happens, then we won’t be able to see people and our team as anything other than how they have always been. We may assume that someone who failed in the past will always fail, or that no one is there to help us out simply because that has happened before.

But we should remember to keep our minds open. People can change, and situations can change too. Having this open mind and not getting attached to our assumptions will make it easier to reach out to people, both in terms of relying on others, as well as when we see that we may need to be relied on.

3) Communicate and listen

As with anything related to teams, communication is key. When it comes to reliance on teams, it is even more necessary to share, listen, and express feelings and thoughts openly. 

The connection between communication and reliance should be obvious. It isn’t really possible to rely on our team if we don’t communicate with them and let them know when we need their assistance. After all, people aren’t mind readers (much as we sometimes wish this were so). People don’t know that we rely on them unless we express that to them.   

On the other hand, we as team members also need to be more open to others when they are in need of help. We need to be open to them relying on us. Likewise, this requires engagement through active listening, and putting ourselves out there as being open to hearing what our team members have to say in general. 

4) Let go of your ego–and show instantaneous gratitude

Another major barrier to forging greater reliance between team members is our egos. This is related to what we discussed about vulnerability above. Many of us don’t want to acknowledge that we need other people’s help, or that we need our team there. Why? 

Because we have our egos. We want to be, or at least we want to appear to be, as strong and capable as possible, because we don’t want to hurt our pride or our reputations. But letting go of this need to assuage your ego is part of not only creating a more reliance and trust-based team, but also part of forming a more healthy team environment.

One way to let go of the ego and open yourself up to relying on others more is by practicing instantaneous gratitude. This means that whenever someone does something to help you, even if it’s the tiniest of acts–appreciate them in the moment. Say “thank you” or express how much what they did meant to you.

The magic of instantaneous gratitude is that it opens yourself more to relying on other people and trusting them more. The act of gratitude acknowledges that yes, you did need that person in that moment; You are not perfect. At the same time, it acknowledges the other person that helped you and forges a stronger and more trusting relationship for the future.

What teams can do to

5) Create a psychologically safe environment

The most important thing that teams can do to boost reliance on teams is to work together to create psychologically safe working environments. What does that mean? It means creating an environment in which team members don’t feel fear, and are able to express their opinions and thoughts openly and honestly.

This is very much related to what we spoke about above. Individual team members should try to communicate more and be more honest about when they need help. But the fact remains that work and team cultures often get in the way of that. Which is why teams need to work together to actively build spaces that are different, and that allow for the sort of vulnerability that reliance requires. 

There are a few ways to do this:

  • Encourage open communication at meetings.
  • Encourage more feedback and criticism.
  • Manage conflicts so that they don’t spill over into interpersonal relationships.
  • Create more opportunities for collaboration on teams (working together to solve larger challenges rather than working separately).

6) Adopt a team-based consciousness

Teams can also work together to solve the issue of egos which, again, is a major hindrance to reliance on teams. Of course, it can’t force team members to not have an ego, but it can help team members towards making better decisions that serve the interests of the team as a whole. 

The way to do this is by inculcating a team-based consciousness. This means encouraging the team to think of themselves as a team, rather than simply a bunch of people who happen to be working together.

The most important aspect of a team-based consciousness is the awareness that what the team can accomplish together is greater than what each team member can accomplish on their own. And there’s no better way to demonstrate this than by putting it into practice. Encourage more group work and sharing ideas, create more time and space for brainstorming, and maybe think about changing some of your workflow practices so that they include more team members’ input and opinions.

The greater this sense of “teamness” is, the greater the chances are that team members will look out for each other, express that they need help, and come to rely on each other. 

 7) Provide time, space and training 

This last point has been implicit throughout, but in order to improve reliance on teams, they need the time, space and training to actually practice it. Teams can’t change overnight. But if given the right tools, information, encouragement and resources, they can get better over time. 

What this means in relation to reliance is providing them with opportunities to rely more on each other–through work projects, social events, and team building. It also might mean bringing in outside educators or facilitators. 

Wherever your team is at, there is always room for improvement. And that might mean that it takes more time before teams begin to evolve naturally and organically. With patience and trust, all teams can learn to be more reliant on each other and work more effectively to achieve their goals. 

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