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3 Ways to Build Trust With Your Team

“Trust is fundamental to effective teams. It’s even more important than liking each other.”

As a Vice President of Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions and the Lead Team Effectiveness, Dr. Liane Davey is sought out by executives at some of North America’s leading financial services, consumer goods, high tech, and healthcare organizations. She works to rehabilitate teams that have become toxic and with healthy teams that want to take their performance to the next level. Liane is also a favourite speaker in the Women of Influence community.

BY Liane Davey


Is there a trust problem on your team? Are you worried that your teammates don’t trust you? It’s a pretty common concern. But what does it mean and what’s the source of the issue? Trust is one of the most nebulous issues facing teams and a proper definition of the nature of the trust problem is critical to finding the right solution.

What type of trust is missing?
When you say that someone doesn’t trust you, what are you suggesting? Is it that your teammates fear that you’ll throw them under the bus? That’s the big kahuna of trust—integrity. If you told me that your teammates don’t trust you, that’s probably where my mind would go.

Related: My team is toxic, but do I have to fire someone?

But how often is the trust issue that severe? Most trust situations I encounter aren’t back stabbing scenarios. Instead, most team members I work with have failed to create trust at a more basic level.

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3 Basic Level of Trust
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Connection: By now you’ve heard ad nauseum about our animal brains and their in group and out group wiring. The result of this is that your teammates trust what (and whom) they know and are suspicious of what they don’t. When you join a new team, especially if you are from a different location, a different industry, or a different background, your teammates won’t have the same implicit understanding of how you will behave. That makes you less predictable, and less trustworthy. Find ways to become part of the in group; one teammate at a time. Take time to learn what you have in common and use those connections to increase the feelings of trust between you.

Related: Liane is also our “Good Question” expert on how to network authentically.

Credibility: Once you create a connection with your teammate, the next step is to establish your credibility. In my experience, lack of confidence in each other’s abilities is one of the most common forms of mistrust on teams.  The ultimate credibility builder is delivering results, but it takes a while to establish a track record.  In the meantime, enhance your teammates comfort in your competence by sharing how you’re thinking about an issue. Share the evidence and approaches that you’re using and seek their input and ideas about how to be successful.  It would be nice if your teammates gave you the benefit of the doubt, but don’t count on it.

Reliability: If you have created a connection and built your credibility, you need to turn your attention to demonstrating your reliability. You might be the most competent person in the world, but trust is quickly destroyed if you fail to deliver on a commitment to a teammate.  You probably don’t drop the ball intentionally, but perceptions of reliability are reduced even when you put less priority on something that’s important to your teammate. To demonstrate your reliability, have a clear conversation about what you will do by when.  Then don’t wait until it’s due. Instead, provide updates and share milestones so your teammate can rest assured that you are going to deliver.

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Trust is fundamental to effective teams. It’s even more important than liking each other. So before you assume that trust issues are about a lack of integrity, see if you can increase trust at more basic levels. Strengthen the connection to your teammates and find ways to feel part of the same tribe. Then focus on building credibility and bolstering your teammate’s confidence in you. Finally, demonstrate your reliability by making clear commitments and living up to them.  All these will contribute to improved trust on your team.