Back to Back Issues Page
iManage, Issue #31 Building Trust in Teams - 3 Steps to Moving Forward
April 01, 2012


Building Trust in Teams - 3 Steps to Moving Forward

Do your team members sometimes avoid sharing information with each other? Do they show a reluctance to take on tasks? Is there a high level of unhealthy competition within the team?

As a team leader you play a pivotal role in building trust within a team so it can thrive. Here are 3 steps to think about:

Step 1: Respond according to the Team's Lifecycle

Bruce Tuckman came up with a four stage model in the lifecycle of a team. He believed that in Stage 1, team members are in Forming mode. As a team leader, you have to allow time for them to settle in as a team. Break the ice more quickly by creating situations where they get to know each other as people, and not just as jobholders.

Stage 2 is the Storming mode, where team members are putting their own agendas on the table. Conflict can often arise. You can help by providing strong leadership, ensuring that everyone is heard and that any conflict is handled in a constructive way.

Stage 3 is the Norming mode, where team members are starting to work together to achieve a common goal. Here you can help by assisting with forward planning and the setting of ground rules for working together.

Finally, the team reach Stage 4 - the Performing mode. At this stage they are comfortable with each other and can really get things done. Your role? to give them the space and guidance they need.

Step 2 Focus on the Team as well as the Task

It is easy to focus on project timelines, results, yields - i.e. the hard data. That is much easier to measure and control than what is going on between team members.

Develop a 3D view of your team. What are relationships like between team members? Are they all making a contribution (verbal or otherwise)? If not, why not?

Is there anything you can do to make things work more smoothly? Develop an awareness of body language and the tone being adopted in meetings. Are people saying one thing and believing something else? Are there competing egos?

Having a greater awareness of the social and political atmosphere in a team will help you make more appropriate responses.

Step 3 Build Morale and Trust will follow

People have to feel comfortable with each other in order for trust to be established. That will only happen when people fully understand where the other party is coming from. As a team leader, your role is to make sure that everyone gets listened to.

Create a positive atmosphere by giving genuine praise to the team so they feel their efforts are appreciated. Work to remove the barriers to team performance and between individuals. Adjust your approach depending on the needs of your team, sometimes being directive, sometimes stepping back.

Trust in teams does not happen overnight, but with consistent work and care it can be built, and will play major dividends in team performance.

Watch out for our next free webinar, where we will explore how to build successful teams in more depth.

For detailed advice on employee motivation and performance, download our Motivation in the Workplace Package for a comprehensive, step by step approach with lots of practical tips.

Best wishes

Ann Halloran

Practical Management Skills

Practical management skills advice for business owners and managers. Get best practice tips on a personal development and people management skills such as time management, leadership, communication, managing change and more.

Content based on 30 years management/consultancy experience gained in a wide range of business sectors.

Back to Back Issues Page