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5 Surefire Ways to Increase Team Trust

I want you to think about the last team meeting that you attended. Perhaps it was this morning, yesterday or last week. As you imagine this meeting, think about the level of trust that existed during this meeting. How much trust would you say you had with the people who were in this meeting? How much trust would you say they had of you?

Trust in a team has huge payoffs. Those who work in high-trust organizations are paid more (according to some research over $6,000 more!). People in high-trust teams are more productive, are more satisfied with their jobs, are happier people at work and in their lives outside of work. Companies with high trust are much more productive (sometimes over 50% more), have more energy at work, have less turn over, less sick days and more job sanctification.

Wouldn't we all want this? So, how can we get this level of trust?

Below you'll find 5 surefire ways to increase trust. As trust is both an individual and team thing, each method is broken down by individual and team.

1. Have Integrity

Individual: The core of trust is character. Abraham Lincoln said, "The reputation is the shadow, character is the tree." Being a person of character starts within and then flows outward. What do you do when no one is watching? Are you completely honest in all of your doings? Do you shave the truth, tell white lies, fudge the numbers on occasion? A person of integrity is truthful even when it hurts. Without personal integrity there will never be team trust because people will see through your dishonesty and not extend their trust to you.

Team: "For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack" (Kipling). Your team's integrity is a collective of individual integrity. When the team makes a decision, each individual should stand by and support this decision. When a team makes a commitment, each individual follows through on the commitments. Your team is only as strong as your weakest link, so be sure that everyone on the team has great integrity and that you each stand by each other.

2. Talk Straight

Individual: “Minnesota nice” is great in many settings, but there is not place for it in a team setting. If you find yourself holding back your opinions, going with the flow or not saying something due to a fear of conflict, you have a trust issue. Learn to trust that all members on the team want what is both best for your and for the company. Learn to feel the same about the other members on the team. Doing so creates a safe environment to speak openly and honestly. By holding back your comments, you take away from the team and often you have less willingness to support decisions because your voice was not heard.

Team: How often do you encounter conflict in your team? Most assume that this is a sign of a defunct team. Quite the opposite! According to author Patrick Lencioni (5 Dysfunctions of a Team) every team meeting should have conflict and if there is not a topic on the agenda that causes conflict, there may not be a reason to meet. When conflict occurs, it means that there is a high level of trust because people feel comfortable expressing their opinions, even if they are in opposition of popular thought. Next meeting, instead of fleeting away from conflict, encourage it.

3. Put Other People First

Individual: I hate to break it to you, but life is not all about you! You may feel like you put others first, but is this really true? Do you say things for your benefit, or so that others will be impressed by your contributions - or do you contribute because you know it will be of the best benefit for the team? Do you find yourself comparing yourself to other teammates? Do you get jealous when others are recognized/promoted? If this is true, you need to do a self-analysis and take to heart one of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar: "If you help enough other people get what they want, you'll get what you want."

Team: It is critical for each member of the team to act in the best interest of others. Trust freely, forgive often, know that each person is still growing and developing. Provide honest feedback that will help your teammates. When making decisions, consider the people-factor first. Remember, people don't leave companies, they leave people.

4. Admit Mistakes

Individual: As wise, friendly old department head was asked, "Sir, What is the secret of your success?" He said, "Two words." "And, Sir, what are they?" "Right decisions." "But how do you make right decisions?" "One word." He responded. "And, sir, What is that?" "Experience." "And how do you get Experience?" "Two words." "And, Sir, what are they?" "Wrong decisions." If you are not making mistakes, you are not growing. If you are not publicly admitting mistakes, you are not establishing trust. Admitting mistakes takes you off the pedestal and makes you more "human," more easily to connect with and to relate to. If you question this, just try it and watch the results.

Team: Admitting that the team, with all of it's brilliance, made a mistake can be difficult and costly. However, trying to cover up the mistake or pretend as though no one noticed has a greater cost in the loss of the integrity of the team. Try hard to not make mistakes, but also understand that failure is not the opposite of success but rather a step in the process of success. Admit the mistake, explain how you've learned from it and how you are going to fix the mistake or ensure that it doesn't happen again.

5. Deliver Results

Individual: Trust is a two winged airplane: a combination of competency and character. If your character is solid, being a person of high competency will help you rapidly gain trust. Make the sacrifice to study things out, to plan ahead and then act! Work hard and be persistent. Don't just be a person that does things, but one that gets things done (believe me, there is a world of difference between the two). When you commit to something, over deliver!

Team: Too often teams take too long to make decisions, take too long to put decisions into action and by the time the results come, it's often too late. Having high trust will expedite your decisions. If you are unsure if a decision is the right one or not, decide and act. It's better to try something and fail at it then to try nothing at all. Make sure you are crystal clear regarding your objectives and that everyone understands the desired results. Make your meetings about results and how to get there. Ultimately, this is the whole point of the team - don't disappoint.

Ensuring a focus on trust will have a huge return on investment. Stephen M.R. Covey says in The Speed of Trust that when trust is high, it takes less time and less money to get results, while when trust is low it takes more time and more money. Invest the time now to consider trust individually and on your team. Your efforts will quickly pay off.

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