Making trust a valued member of your team

The words ‘team’ and ‘trust’ have more than just the first letter in common. A team can’t operate to its fullest potential without trust – both trust between members and trust with their manager.

One of the most important aspects of trust is what people now refer to as ‘psychological safety’, which in its simplest form is the security that you won’t be punished if you make a mistake. Studies have shown that this feeling of safety lets people be more creative and allows them to search for innovative solutions.

Positive emotions like trust help us to solve complex problems, while working together to do this. Teams with a high level of trust are more open-minded, motivated and willing to challenge the status quo. What’s more they even have fun, as the feeling of security gives them the freedom of a bit of humour.

As a manager, what can you do to foster a team where trust is a core value and practice? Here are five tactics you can start putting into practice today.

  1. Recognise that every person in your team is human

    No matter how confident a team member may be, every individual needs to feel respected, appreciated and competent. Recognising this in people leads to greater trust and promotes positive behaviour. Even if you’re up against a tough adversary, teach your team to remember that even the most confrontational person has opinions, hopes, anxieties and wants to be happy, just like them.

  2. Don't focus on the 'win'

    No one likes to feel as if they’ve lost, so when conflict does arise, position this as an opportunity to find the best outcome for both parties, rather than immediately arming up for battle. If people feel defeated before they even begin, the result is likely to reflect this. By turning this around and challenging your team to find a mutually desirable outcome, you’re more likely to encourage the right solution.

  3. Curiosity never killed the cat

    But blame potentially could...blame is a useless behaviour and serves no one well, particularly in a workplace where it can lead to defensiveness and disengagement. It’s human nature to assign blame without knowing the full facts, so make it your job to uncover what’s going on, why this may have happened (it could be a mixture of work and personal issues) and engage the person in a two-way conversation about potential solutions to solve the issue. Empower that person by asking them what they believe could help, and most importantly demonstrate that you will support them in this.

  4. Be ready for emotional reactions

    Not many people are comfortable with news that they may have done something wrong. As a manager, preparation is critical so that your message can be heard above the immediate reaction that leads people to believe they are under attack. Write down your key messages concisely and even phrased in a couple of alternative ways. Think about how your team member may react and prepare answers that will help you achieve the outcome you’re looking for.

  5. Don't be afraid of feedback

    If you want to instil trust in others, you need to respect their feedback and learn from difficult conversations. After such a conversation, don’t be afraid to ask the person questions like:

    • How do you feel about the conversation we just had?
    • How could I have dealt with this better?
    • What should I continue to do if this kind of situation arose with anyone again?

As Warren Bennis, regarded as the pioneer of Leadership studies, said: “Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organisations to work.” Ensuring that ‘trust’ is a valued member of your team will put you firmly on the road to success.

Author: Peter Robinson
Team Leadership Services