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Have you ever led a team whose members did not trust each other? If so, then you know how difficult it is.

A team without a relationship of trust is not even a team; it’s just a group of people working together and sometimes achieving results. They may argue about rights and responsibilities, not share information or communicate with each other. No matter how capable and talented your employees are, they may not realize their full potential if there is no trust in the team.

On the contrary, when it is, every person in the team becomes stronger because they are part of an effective cohesive group. When people trust each other, the group achieves its goals.

How do you help your team build the trust that is essential for prosperity?

In this article, we’ll look at the issue of trust within the teams, why it’s important and what you can do to help.

The importance of trust

One definition describes trust as “confidence in the positive qualities of a character, abilities, strengths or loyalty of someone”.

Think about those words for one minute. Trust means that you have no doubt that a person is doing the right thing in a given situation. You are convinced of his integrity and other positive qualities to the extent that you can not be afraid to take risks.

Trust is necessary for the team to work effectively because it gives a sense of security. When team members feel safe with each other, it is easier for them to “open up”; they take reasonable risks and are not afraid to show their weaknesses.

Without trust, people are reluctant to interact with each other, do not implement innovations, do not seek creative solutions and work unproductively. They spend time protecting themselves and their interests, while this time should be spent helping the group to achieve its goals.

Trust is also important for sharing knowledge. A study published in the Journal of Knowledge Management showed that trust is a key element in knowledge acquisition. Simply put, if team members trust each other, they are more willing to share knowledge and communicate more openly.

How to help employees build a trusting relationship

1. Give me an example.

If you want to strengthen relationships in the team, then become an example and show others – the team, colleagues and the boss – that you trust them. Remember that employees always follow your actions and follow your example. Show them what your trust in others really looks like.

If you run a remote team, communicate with people as if you were working in the same office. You should be on time for a conference or video call, and remember to let your staff know when you are away or on vacation.

You must keep the promises you make. Become an example to others. This is especially important in the case of virtual teams, because very often your word is all you can give them. You can strengthen the relationship with the team if the employees see that they can trust you; this will create the right working spirit and increase their expectations.

2. Communicate openly

Team members should not hesitate to talk to each other honestly and constructively. Several strategies can be used to achieve this goal.

First, create a collective charter. In it, indicate the goals of the team as well as the role of each employee. Introduce the Charter to the first meeting, invite everyone to ask questions, and discuss expectations.

Use team-building exercises. With the right choices and planning, these exercises help “melt the ice” and encourage people to open up and start communicating.

Get together regularly to give team members the opportunity to talk about their progress and discuss their concerns. This way they can get to know each other better. It also creates opportunities for them to start communicating and helping each other solve their problems.

Reinforce words with action: If you have important relevant information to share with others, do not postpone it. Show that open communication is important to you; share information with the group. The more often employees see that you are not hiding anything from them, the sooner they will start to trust you and others.

3. Add moments of informal communication

One way to gain trust is to make team members get to know each other better. Create situations where they can share personal stories.

Start with yourself. Tell a little about yourself and then ask the others about your family, hobbies or favorite music.

Another way to establish a friendly relationship in the team is to communicate after work or during lunch. For example, you can set aside time for informal group discussions once a week. Ask the team members to make suggestions on topics that would be useful to discuss. You may want to start by talking about everyone’s values. Talk about what is important to you, and ask others to talk about their values. Everyone has them, and if you suggest a topic for discussion, you will emphasize the importance of humane treatment in the team.

If you run a virtual team, schedule an online orientation meeting (if it’s a new team) to help people get to know each other. Ask everyone to write a paragraph or two in their online profiles about their experiences, skills and interests. Use chat rooms and instant messengers to keep in touch.

Do not ask your employees too personal questions. Adhere to business etiquette.

4. Don’t be a critic.

When people work together, it’s hard to avoid mistakes and trouble. Blaming the person who made them is the easiest way; but the atmosphere quickly becomes tense when everyone starts pointing fingers at one. This worsens the working spirit, erodes trust and ultimately leads to bad results.

Instead, encourage the team to constructively reflect on the error. What can each employee do to correct the situation? How can you make sure that a mistake will not happen again in the future?

5. Don’t turn a blind eye to “groups.”

“Groups” are often formed by people with common interests or work tasks. Such groups can – unintentionally – make others feel alone. They also undermine trust between group members.

As a manager, start an open discussion on this issue and see what employees think about “groupings” and their impact on other team members. By openly discussing the issue (and only doing so), you can prevent such malicious behavior.

6. Discuss trust issues

If you lead an established team whose members have never formed a trusting relationship, it is important to find out how the problems arise; then you can strategize to solve them.

We recommend handing out a questionnaire to employees, which they will have to fill out anonymously. Include questions about the level of trust in the group and why they think there is a lack of trust. Once you know the results, bring the team together to discuss these issues (never insist on disclosing anonymity).

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