In business, as in any venture, team members who don’t trust each other are destined for setbacks and failure. It’s important from the outset for business leaders to take steps to build trust and cooperation among their employees to maximize productivity and team satisfaction.
Modeling best behaviors and creating shared experiences are great for building camaraderie. We asked 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council to share their most effective ways for business leaders to build team spirit in their employees.
1. Develop Rules Of Engagement
One thing we teach is our rules of engagement. We ask people what it takes to have a great team, what the definition of a great teammate is, and what actions each needs to participate in to support those definitions. Once done, we ask what phrase we could use, without people being defensive, to create accountability. What it does is level the playing field and re-establish trust. – Tim Hagen, Progress Coaching
2. Define Clear Commitments
We lose trust when we perceive others have not followed through on what we expect; yet these commitments are often not clearly articulated, mutual and measurable. In new teams or in teams trying to recover trust, it is important to have clearly articulated agreements and accountability measures to ensure everyone involved has aligned expectations. – Maureen Metcalf, Innovative Leadership Institute
3. Show Trust First
Worried that your team is lacking trust? Before you begin the lectures or the corny exercises, look in the mirror. As the leader, are you trusting them? Where are you holding the reins too tightly, thinking you’re best to handle a particular client or project? What information are you holding back, assuming others can’t handle it? Trust them more, and they’ll begin to learn they can trust, too. – Darcy Eikenberg, PCC, Red Cape Revolution
4. Share And Be Receptive
Trust is determined by openness, credibility and respect, practiced consistently. Therefore, trust relies on leaders being consistent and letting others know what to expect. Leaders must foster an environment where others’ differences are accepted and look out for others’ welfare. Leaders who share thoughts and feelings and who are receptive to the thoughts and feelings of others build trust. – Ed Krow, Turbo Execs, LLC
5. Model Respectful Argumentation
Establish a regular routine that supports the process of argumentation during all team meetings. Argumentation among team members instigates positive tension that leads to mutual respect, trust and innovation. By learning how to respectfully disagree, people learn that there’s no need to mistrust someone with a different perspective, because argumentation feels a lot different than mere arguing. – Nina Cashman, Pave Your Way
6. Identify Why Trust Is Low
Think of trust as deposits or withdrawals from an account. Low trust is a result of too many withdrawals. There are several areas that can build or break trust with teams. One thing leaders can do is to identify the reasons for low trust. Ask yourself, “Is the team’s direction clear? Are there clear expectations and accountability?” By getting down to the root issues you can start to rebuild trust. – Erin Hoffman, Collaboration Business Consulting
7. Have Team Members Interact On A Personal Level
Create an opportunity for the team to interact on a personal level at a retreat, challenge or event. Make it easy for people to be authentic, tell stories and reveal their character. It is with this shared experience that a structured dialogue about earning each other’s trust and respect can evolve into the best way to work together as team. A didactic exercise alone cannot produce trust. – Maryann Billington, Action Leadership Group LLC
8. Share A Regular Meal
People are hard to hate up close, and nothing brings togetherness like sharing a meal. Engage in a monthly team lunch or coffee focused on nonwork discussion. Engage in personal sharing exercises, discuss vacations and personal and professional goals, or have a self-awareness workshop, such as a personal assessment tool, to create mutual understanding. Teams that eat together build stronger bonds. – Jenn Lofgren, Incito Executive & Leadership Development
9. Understand Communication Styles
We all have different behavioral styles, and when we encounter someone who approaches tasks or communicates differently than we do, it can lead to mistrust. Have your team members take the DiSC assessment to learn about their and their colleagues’ preferences. By discussing motivators, work styles and how each style prefers to communicate, you will bridge misunderstandings and begin to build trust. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC
10. Create A Necessity
From a practical standpoint, it is all about creating a “necessity.” Human behavior is most likely to adapt when changes are a matter of survival. The most effective method I have seen work is to create that necessity. Put those that you perceive as not trusting each other into a team and define the project success in a way that forces trust building. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group
11. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable
It is so powerful when a leader shows vulnerability to their team. When anyone is vulnerable their team often responds with empathy, which starts a cycle of trust. If you need to build trust more quickly, hold an offsite and ask everyone on the team to develop and share two growth goals with the entire team. This provides everyone with an equal opportunity to be vulnerable and to support each other. – Cindy Pogrund, Paradigm Pursuits
12. Teach Safety Instead
Many companies attempt to teach or improve trust by focusing on, well, trust! We cannot teach trust any better than we can teach a foolproof method of falling in love. Trust equals an outcome, rather than a catalyst. Instead, teach safety and trust will grow. When we feel safe, we trust! Try criticizing in private, praising in public or other safe practices, and watch the trust build on your team! – John Hittler, Evoking Genius
13. Learn Each Other’s Stories
Everyone has a personal history that impacts how they show up in their professional setting and the lens by which they view the world. Establishing trust requires team members be given the opportunity to share the stories that have shaped them. This allows the armor to come down so they can see each other authentically and develop the compassion that will guide them through the challenging times. – Caroline Caro
14. Do Charitable Work Together
Sometimes the best building of bonds and trust is outside the walls of the organization. Those who serve others by building a Habitat house, meeting kids and families under cancer care, or serving meals and educating the homeless often get something far greater than getting along better at work. Volunteer experiences where trust can be built often directly translate positively and immediately. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of leading business coaches and career coaches. Find out if you qualify at forbescoachescouncil.com/qualify.