The research is clear: Highly effective teams drive organizational performance.1 When a highly effective team comes together to accomplish a goal, the unique skills and characteristics of each team member work together in concert to produce work that no person could accomplish alone. The astronauts of Apollo 11 worked together to land on the moon, and famous bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones collaborated to produce music that will never be forgotten. While these examples of teams made great achievements, many teams fail to be successful.
Patrick Lencioni’s famous model of the five dysfunctions of a team seeks to explain what might cause a team to struggle to succeed. Lencioni proposes that, at the most fundamental level, an absence of trust can lead to serious issues in a team.2 Research has confirmed this repeatedly.3 Among other things, a lack of trust can lead to a loss of job satisfaction and poor communication at the individual level, as well as low team commitment and performance at the team level.4 Therefore, team trust has ramifications beyond the team.
While research has proven this, the importance of trust within a team is an intuitive concept. A person who does not trust their teammates might be less likely to share new ideas, reach out for support, engage in productive conflict, or to rely on others to make contributions. This behavior will inevitably hinder team performance. Teams whose members are afraid to share new ideas, for example, will have a difficult time coming up with innovative solutions for challenging problems.
Given the importance of team trust, here are three ways that you can improve trust within your team.
Consider Hogan Scales
Scores on the Hogan personality assessments can provide insight into potential barriers for building trust within teams. For example, individuals with high scores on the Skeptical scale of the Hogan Development Survey (HDS) can be less likely to trust others. When they’re under stress or not self-monitoring, they might assume others have ulterior motives. Providing this insight to individuals who score high on the Skeptical scale can be a first step to fight against the tendency to shut others out and develop a plan to help them foster trust.
While Skeptical is a good example of a scale that can be used to build trust, several other scales can be used to help build team trust as well. Notably, these include the HDS Bold scale, which measures the tendency to resist feedback and appear arrogant, and the HDS Excitable scale, which measures the tendency to appear temperamental and critical when under stress.
Set Recurring Meetings
Trust is built over time and cannot happen when team members aren’t interacting. Setting up recurring meetings for the team to communicate can help build trust. Sharing updates on work projects might can allow for team members to collaborate and share expertise, which aids in building trust. In addition, socializing might help foster a culture of vulnerability, which can also help to build trust.
Mistakes happen, and everyone on the team will inevitably make them. To leverage these mistakes for trust building, demonstrate and encourage transparency. Sharing mistakes as a leader sets the stage for the rest of your team to follow suit. As team members start to share mistakes, others can offer encouragement, support, and help when appropriate. Over time, a culture of transparency will begin to develop, which is critical for developing team trust.
While considering Hogan scales, setting recurring meetings, and modeling transparency are important for building team trust, these are not one-off solutions. Creating a plan for implementing these practices and adhering to them is necessary. Failure to follow through will hardly impact team trust in a positive way, so developing a plan and having the team hold itself accountable is crucial when implementing these practices. For sustainable change, consistency is key.
- Richter, A. W., Dawson, J. F., & West, M. A. (2011). The Effectiveness of Teams in Organizations: A Meta-Analysis. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(13), 2749–2769. doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2011.573971
- Lencioni, P. (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. Jossey-Bass.
- De Jong, B. A., Dirks, K. T., & Gillespie, N. (2016). Trust and Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis of Main Effects, Moderators, and Covariates. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(8), 1134–1150. doi.org/10.1037/apl0000110
- Costa, A. C., Fulmer, C. A., & Anderson, N. R. (2017). Trust in Work Teams: An Integrative Review, Multilevel Model, and Future Directions. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 39(2), 169–184. doi.org/10.1002/job.2213