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How To Build Trust In The Workplace

By David Hawks | Feb 15, 2016 |  Article,  Leadership,  Team

Two team members help each other hike up a mountain. That's a lot of team trust in their workplace. Image courtesy Paul C. Bronson

My team is asking for extra resources because they don’t have enough time to get everything done. But they want to spend part of their work day on trust activities. What gives?

For some, the team building, focus on communication, and opportunities to reflect provided in the Scrum framework are too much, a little too hippie. It may seem like a waste of time. However, lack of trust in leadership and among team members can result in decreased productivity, halfhearted attempts at innovation, and a hostile workplace.

A survey of 500+ US workers for Interaction Associate’s annual workplace trust report found several correlations between trust in the workplace and the bottom line. Trust leaders are 2 1/2 times more likely to be revenue generators than trust stragglers. In addition, organizations reporting high workplace trust are more likely to meet their business objectives. Regardless of the growth stage your business is in, from steadfast Fortune 100 companies to scaling startups, evidence shows that investing in trust is not a waste of time.

6 Ways To Build Team Trust And Corresponding Activities

1. Get Buy-in

While it’s easy to see why trust is important in personal relationships, team members and management can be skeptical regarding its importance in the workplace. In order for trust building activities to have the highest impact, participants should believe that it’s a good use of their time.

Activity: Individual or small group discussions

2. Open Up

One of the easiest ways to build trust is to share more of your personal life with your team. While this makes you a little vulnerable, your team will see that you trust them with this information which helps them to reciprocate in their own time. We’re not suggesting to share your deepest, darkest secret; even small nuggets of information such as favorite song can increase relatability. Also, sharing personal information can help people understand work behavior, particularly if there are big stressors like illness or death in play. In addition, sharing work-related info, such as goals or skill level, should be encouraged as it will help you assign projects and develop talent.

Activities: 2 Truths And A Lie, Market of Skills

  1. Promote A Self-Organizing Team

Workers who participated in the Interaction Associate’s survey reported that the top way a leader can build trust is to seek input from the team on decisions that affect them. Agile is a natural when it comes to involving the team. After all, “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools,” according to the Agile Manifesto. Note that the following exercises are directly work-related. 🙂

Activities: Build team Charter, Definition of Done, Create core values, Trust Canvas

  1. Become A Servant Leader

Support, whether accommodating employees during stressful personal situations or providing opportunities for professional development, goes a long way towards building trust in leadership. According to the survey, this is the third most effective way to build trust, coming in at 27 percent. Setting your team up for success shows that you are serious about working with them to meet set objectives. By the way, this is not limited to training. Stocking the fridge with favorite snacks or ordering lunch for the team are other ways show support.

Activity: Regular 1-on-1 meetings

  1. Hold Yourself Accountable

Hypocrisy extinguishes trust while integrity fuels its growth. In other words, walk the talk and always follow through to the best of your abilities. Acknowledging your mistakes, particularly in front of your team says a lot about your character and commitment to improving as well as asking your team for feedback.

Activity: Regular self reflection.

The Downside Of Micromanaging

We’ve discussed the importance of trust in leadership but what happens if management doesn’t trust their team? When Leaders don’t trust that their team is doing the work or doing it properly, they tend to helicopter and hover. A recent survey by Tiny Pulse on employee retention shows the negative effects of of micromanagement. According to the survey, employers guilty of micromanaging have 28% more turnover leading to more time and money spent finding and onboarding talent.

Trust, not talent, is the foundation for building high performing teams. Don’t make the mistake of pushing it aside in favor of “working.” For more information on how mistrust can affect the everyday working life of the entire team, check out my complete presentation on SlideShare.

Our coaches are also happy to talk with you about ways your team can work smarter instead of harder.

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