Many components go into building an effective team, including determining your goals, setting expectations, and identifying valuable workers. But one of the most overlooked aspects is building trust within your team. However, trust isn't the only thing that's often overlooked or put on the back burner — so is how you build trust.
Trust cannot be forced on your team. You must build trust from the ground up with a step-by-step strategy to incorporate trust in your workforce, and not just between team members. While they should trust each other, they should trust you as well.
You might wonder why trust is important to your team's overall goals and vision. How does trust affect your team and their work? How does it improve your team's workflow and make them more efficient?
Why Is Trust Important in a Team
Trust is important in any relationship, be it personal, familial, or professional. It can be challenging to build trust, and once broken, it's even more difficult to rebuild.
Trust allows your team to feel confident, respected, and valued — all of which are essential to building an effective team. Many teams have people from all walks of life, education, experience, and skill sets. Sometimes this diversity can result in conflicts, but if your team is built on trust, these conflicts may be less frequent and easier to resolve.
Trust also ensures that when your team makes a mistake, their dignity won't be affected, nor will their workflow. If leaders and colleagues shame those who make mistakes and deal out punishments, it can be dehumanizing and make people feel humiliated. Your team dynamics may suffer, and your team may be hesitant to try new things or to come to you if they make a mistake. This can lead to inefficiency and wasted time, and in the worst case scenario, quiet quitting.
But if your team has compassionate, patient, and trusting individuals, including yourself, they are likely to work more efficiently, ask for help and advice when needed, and be more successful.
5 Strategies for Building Trust in Teams
Building trust and collaboration in a virtual team can be challenging, but there are steps and strategies that can make it easier. The most effective plan is to lead by example. Putting your trust in the individuals working for you can make them feel relaxed and more open to exploring new ideas and possibilities without fear of repercussion.
Many companies and leaders struggle with building trust in a remote team. Here are a few ways to improve levels of trust among team members.
1. Encourage Open Communication
As a leader, open communication should already be your forte. Open communication, and communication as a whole, are needed to guarantee success in the workforce. Open communication helps you be transparent, consistent, and dependable when you share information. It allows you to express your ideas and emotions while avoiding confusion and nonverbal language that could be taken the wrong way.
Without open communication, your team's ability to work efficiently will suffer. This doesn't just affect your team, though. It can affect your entire business. Internal systems may falter, and confusion may run amok. Your team and colleagues may become fearful of their work. Team members may work on the same project without realizing it, resulting in duplicate projects and wasted time.
Closed communication can result in lost team morale, productivity, and satisfaction for both the customer and the employee. Your team may not be aware of important tasks and deadlines that need to take priority, which can damage your overall company and lead to a bad reputation. You may have customers waiting on the release of a product or feature, but if the deadline is missed, it could push the release back further. Closed communication can affect customer satisfaction and loyalty, too.
On the other hand, open communication allows you and your team to express what jobs need to be done and when, promote accountability, become more organized, and form stronger bonds.
How do you encourage open communication? Try these steps:
- Ensure management knows how to communicate: Your management is the middleman between you and your employees. Because other employees often look up to them, your management must understand how to lead by example. Training management in open communication will help your teams feel more comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions.
- Instill it within your company's culture: Your company should welcome open communication in all areas. Let employees know they are welcome and expected to share ideas and opinions when necessary. When open communication is instilled within the company from the ground up, employees will be more likely to express their thoughts freely.
- Introduce well-organized ways to share ideas: While it's important to encourage your employees to share their thoughts and opinions directly, it's equally important to implement other ways that they can share their ideas, including anonymously. Some ways to encourage your employees to share ideas are through chat-based software where they can offer feedback on various themes, schedule routine feedback meetings, or conduct anonymous surveys regarding internal matters.
- Regularly ask your employees for feedback and input: One of the most effective ways to encourage open communication within your team is to ask your employees for their input — and be consistent. Ask them for feedback on various decisions, problems, and solutions. Not only will this help encourage open communication, but it will also allow your team to feel respected and appreciated.
2. Show Them Support
As a leader, your team will likely look up to you and want your advice on certain situations. It's important to pick up on any signs of struggle and offer your team support.
Support comes in many shapes and sizes — it's not just about helping your team when they need it. There are several ways you can offer support to your team:
- Communicate and check-in regularly
- Ensure that your team knows their duties and priorities
- Empower your team by allowing them to think for themselves
- Work on your emotional intelligence
- Take breaks together to promote building relationships within your team
- Focus on your team's well-being and growth
Another idea to support your team is by setting SMART goals. SMART goals aim to help individuals set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. Individuals and teams can work toward objectives by planning the steps to meet these objectives long-term.
Goals can be anything that increases, makes, improves, reduces, saves, or develops. They can be both professional and personal. They can even be familial or have to do with socializing, friendships, or relationships. Each area of the SMART goal should be filled out appropriately.
For example, specific goals should be about what you want to achieve. Consider the who, what, when, where, which, and why. Measurable goals need to be metric-specific and measure how you will meet your goal. Achievable goals must focus on the importance of your goals and how you can best achieve them. Relevant goals are those that complement your business goals. Finally, time-bound goals should focus on realistic timing.
The SMART method can help break goals down into easy-to-follow steps. It gives your team a sense of purpose and direction. You'll be setting clear expectations for your team to follow, which will motivate them to perform well.
Supporting your team will show them that you care, want to see them grow and succeed, and respect them as individuals. It's also a great way to encourage trust among team members and build employee engagement.
3. Conduct Team-building Trust Activities
It may seem silly to some, but team-building exercises can be a great way to build trust in your team. While some activities may seem awkward at first, they can be fun ways to promote healthy bonds between your team.
Here are a few examples of how to build trust in a team exercise:
- Back-to-back drawing: Back-to-back drawing is a fun activity promoting bonding between two team members. Either choose partners for your employees or have them pick their own. Instruct them to sit back-to-back. One employee is given a pen and paper, while the other is given a photo. The photo-holder must then describe the photo while the paper-holder draws what is described. This is a great activity to help your team learn to rely on and communicate with one another.
- Minefield: Minefield is another great activity to encourage trust and communication between your team. Set up an area with obstacles, such as plastic cups or cones. Have your team split into groups of two or more. One person in each group will then be blindfolded while the others are tasked with guiding the blindfolded person through the obstacle course using only their voices.
- One question: Because your coworkers spend a good chunk of time together, it's important to encourage them to get to know each other. You could set aside a meeting, split your employees into groups of two or more, and then give them prompts to ask their fellow employees. It's a great and quick icebreaker activity that promotes relationship building.
Keep in mind, though, not everyone may be open to team-building activities, especially introverted employees. Still, it's important to encourage them to participate without being pushy and find ways to include them that may make them feel more comfortable.
4. Encourage Collaboration
Two heads are better than one, right?
Collaboration is essential for your employees to work seamlessly and complete their projects. They must be able to work well with each other and with other professionals in your company. Collaboration allows your team to work together and come up with solutions to problems they may encounter.
Other benefits of collaboration include:
- Goal alignment
- Open communication
- Open participation
If your team is open to collaborating, there's little they won't be able to face. Yet, many teams struggle to collaborate, especially those built on a remote foundation. So, how do you encourage effective collaboration?
- Create a supportive work environment
- Communicate your expectations openly
- Invest in online platforms and software focused on communication and collaboration
- Determine your employees' strengths and weaknesses and adapt
- Encourage your team members to brainstorm and share their ideas and feedback
- Use mistakes as a teachable moment
5. Appreciate Your Team Members
The last step in building trust in your team is showing appreciation. When your team is shown appreciation for their hard work, they feel recognized and valued. These feelings often motivate employees to work harder and maintain their performance. It also helps improve workplace morale.
There are several ways to show your team that you appreciate them, including:
- Acknowledging accomplishments as soon as they happen
- Send out handwritten thank-you notes
- Thank your team in a public setting, such as at an event or meeting
- Celebrate your team's wins
- Give financial incentives and extra time off
- Buy a meal for your team
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