Victoria Sambursky

Trust is hard to measure, especially in the workplace. But when it’s missing – you know it. One of the biggest questions for managers is how to build trust within their teams organically. So what do you really need to know when it comes to trust and teams? From top thought leaders in business to experts in management, we’ve rounded up some of the best strategies to use when building trust with your team.

Building Trust in Layers

According to Brene Brown, author of Dare to Lead, trust is created by stacking and layering small moments of mutual vulnerability over time. Trust and vulnerability grow together, and to betray one is to destroy both. In other words, managers can’t expect their team members to suddenly trust everything they do if they only praise them occasionally. Trust is something earned incrementally. Brown suggests earning trust with teams by taking actions such as:

  • Empathizing with them during challenging moments.

  • Being vulnerable, especially when it’s not easy.

  • Making space for an unheard voice.

  • Demonstrating authentic curiosity about their work and their lives.

  • Practicing your values rather than only professing them.

Give Trust by Default

According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), when you find yourself getting burned-out as a result of micromanaging projects, it may be a sign that you need to work on your ability to give trust. By holding it back, you risk saying to your team, “I don’t trust you to do good work without me.” HBR recommends considering the mistakes you’ve made in your career and how they’ve helped you grow. Give your team that same space. Let them flourish and fail, and when they fail, help them grow from it. When you allow a team member to take a risk, it makes them more likely to trust you. And more likely to take risks on their own.

Creating a Safe Space for Input

Creating a safe space at work is also referred to as creating an atmosphere of psychological safety. Amy Edmondson, a Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, states, “A psychologically safe workplace is one where people are not full of fear, and not trying to cover their tracks to avoid being embarrassed or punished.” Once you’ve established a safe space for team members, ask for their input. Edmondson offers this advice, “Asking is the simplest and best way to get people to offer their ideas. Even if a leader has explained how error-prone the work is, people still have a hard time speaking up with concerns. To help, ask questions such as, “What do you see in this situation?”

Are You Self-Aware?

To build trust, you need to be self-aware. And before you can understand someone else’s work style, you have to understand your own. This part is where personality/work style assessments come in handy. For instance, if you want to learn more about your leadership style and the bigger picture of your team dynamics, you can take our unbiased assessment. And then, get everyone on the team to take it and set aside time to review and discuss the results. Forbes suggests knowing yourself, and your teammates are a fundamental building block of trust. If you know each other’s communication preferences, you avoid a lot of the friction and negative feelings that arise.

As a manager, you’ll find that building a cohesive team is a never-ending process. However, a team without trust, well, it isn’t really a team. By building high-trust environments, you’ll also build higher productivity, better engagement, and a greater alignment around a shared mission.