Successful teamwork is built on a foundation of trust. Each member of the team must establish trust; cultivate trust through his actions and words, and work to maintain it. Each member also needs to be able to trust his team members to make a commitment to the team and its goals, work competently with those goals in mind, and communicate consistently about any issues that affect the team.
Here are three unique qualities about trust; it’s a process, a choice and something that is uniquely human:
- Process— Trust is a learned skill. It involves an ongoing process of relationship building, communication, and action. For example, doing what you say you will do builds trust. Building trust is a process that layers on level after level of deeper trust. When actions do not match words and trust is breached, this is also a process that works in the reverse.
- Choice— People decide whether or not to extend trust. Trust evolves incrementally over time, is based on sound judgment, and is not without limits and conditions. Those who choose to trust understand that there is the possibility of a breach of trust, and weigh risks and benefits before proceeding.
- Uniquely Human— While you may consider your car to be a reliable transportation, you don’t “trust your car.” Trust is about keeping your word, honoring your commitments and involves a decision, action, and a response. Trust is something that is unique to human beings.
The four C’s in a trusting relationship with team members on your team are:
Commitment is an important part of trust. Every team member must commit to helping teammates meet the goals of the team – no matter if personal or professional obstacles present themselves. For example, a team member who has to take an extended amount of sick leave should be willing to do as much work as possible from home. Team members must be able to rely on one another to do their part of the team’s work without fail. Each team member must be cognizant of the detrimental consequences of not following through on commitments.
Team members must trust that their teammates are competent and can successfully complete the tasks relevant to the team’s success. For example, each team member should be able to focus on an assigned task without worrying about teammates following through with their assigned tasks. Individual team members must realize when they need help and ask for it, instead of concealing weaknesses from the group. When team members show vulnerability to their teammates and the teammates respond in an efficient and helpful manner, trust will grow between them.
Consistent and meaningful communication is necessary for a trusting relationship within a team. For instance, if a team member finishes a task early, they should communicate to their teammates that they are finish and ask if they can help another team member with their part of the work. If one team member discovers vital information that is relevant to the team’s success, such as a deadline change or a lack of resources, they should communicate it to the other members as soon as possible. People who work within virtual teams need to make an effort to keep all members within the loop. For example, an email addressed to one or two team members is not sufficient. Instead, a group email or the use of an online collaboration tool is necessary to communicate with every member. Team members who receive communication from other team members should always respond to confirm that they have received the information to build trust.
True collaboration won’t happen without a sense of trust between team members. When team members collaborate, they share creative ideas without fear that another team member will take credit for their ideas. A team member who feels they are in a trusting team environment may be more willing to bring up concerns that are relevant to the team’s goals or its members. A collaborative and trusting team environment allows team members to share personal information and develop a stronger bond with their teammates.