Have you ever been encouraged to get to know a colleague better, spend time with a subordinate or have regular check-in meetings with your manager? Some people might find this uncomfortable and believe that they are not paid to spend time with people.

Very simply said: we trust the people we know. You will probably take advice from and listen to people close to you – like family and friends that you know very well. However, if a stranger calls you with advice on your finances, you either swear at them, slam down the phone or very politely state that you are not interested. Because you don’t know the person who called, your behaviour will be considered by many as normal.

Every team would like to achieve results at the end of the day. Results start with trust. Trust is to depend on the character, truth and ability of someone or something. A team without trust is not a team. It is just a group of people working together towards, often disappointing, results. Patrick Lencioni created a model that explains the five dysfunctions which will lead to inattention to results in teams.

The foundation of a dysfunctional team is a lack of trust. Trust is a critical part of the process to achieve our goals effectively. Once we trust one another, we will be comfortable engaging in conflict and disagree with one another. Teams require high levels of trust to maintain a space of psychological safety where the members feel comfortable making suggestions, disagreeing with ideas, suggesting different ways of thinking and asking questions without the fear of reprisal. Relationships are often damaged where there is a lack of trust in teams.

It is natural to perceive conflict as negative. However, conflict is necessary for a team to move towards the intended outcome. Winston Churchill said: “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary”. Therefore, disagreeing with one another is essential.

Once team members trust one another and feel comfortable engaging in conflict, they can commit to specific actions to get to the intended results. During this commitment stage, all honest opinions and viewpoints must be on the table to make the best decision for the team to move forward. If a team does not feel comfortable engaging with one another honestly, invalid information will form the basis of decision-making which can set the team up for failure.

Mutual accountability is the next important phase in a team’s achievement of goals. Accountability is the willingness to accept responsibility for our own actions. We might talk about accountability often, but we do not often discuss how we will hold one another accountable. It is important to discuss this when beginning to lay out commitments. This means that it will not come as a surprise when a team member reminds us of what we have committed to.

Trusting one another, allowing for new solutions by disagreeing often, honestly and openly deciding on specific commitments and comfortably holding one another accountable will allow the team to accomplish everything they set out to do…and more. If you want to build trust within your team, then lead by example. Show your team that you trust them. Make an effort to get to know your team members on a personal level and allow your team to get to know you as well.

At the end of the day, teams are more effective when they trust one another. The entire idea behind having a team is the ability to depend on each other. Trust within teams also boosts morale and will influence the team’s willingness to go the extra mile.

It is clear from the research that there is a positive relationship between trust and team performance in teams working face to face. But what about trust in virtual teams? Breuer, Huffmeier and Hertel (2016) conducted a meta-analysis research study investigating the role of trust in 1850 virtual teams. The study demonstrated a strong and positive relationship between trust and the performance of virtual teams.

Here are a few suggestions to build and maintain trust in face-to-face and virtual teams:

  • Get to know one another on a personal level and encourage ongoing social activities to establish emotional ties between team members. These social interactions are ideal when they occur face to face but can take place effectively on an online platform.
  • Allow your team a few minutes before meetings to check in with one another on personal matters. This will also increase emotional ties and will positively influence the levels of trust.
  • Show that you trust your team’s competence by allowing them to explain and demonstrate their own work and its outcome.
  • Ensure that the team complies with the behavioural norms agreed to. This includes having respect for timelines and keeping promises.
  • To maintain trust, it is important to be transparent and engage in frequent and open conversations where information is shared.

Trust is critical to maintaining effective cooperation in teams. When a team is linked by trust, the team members can work faster with confidence and successfully achieve their goals.

By Ilana Bisschoff


Dana Brownlee. (2019). 5 Reasons Why Trust Matters On Teams. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/danabrownlee/2019/10/20/5-reasons-why-trust-matters-on-teams/?sh=1a1665792d60

Jessica Zartler. (2017). Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions of a Team. Retrieved from https://medium.com/taskworld-blog/lencionis-5-dysfunctions-of-a-team-330d58b2cd81

Paolo Sciacovelli. (2017). Teams going virtual: why focusing on trust matters. Retrieved from https://scienceforwork.com/blog/virtual-teams-trust/

Vartika Kashyap. (2019). Building Trust in Teams – Why It’s Important & How It’s Done. Retrieved from https://blog.proofhub.com/why-its-important-to-build-trust-in-teams-and-how-it-s-done-5d947827cbd4

Amy Jen Su. (2019). Do You Really Trust Your Team? (And Do They Trust You?). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/12/do-you-really-trust-your-team-and-do-they-trust-you

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