Building trust on teams

Trust is the foundation for effective teams. Without trust, teams cannot effectively collaborate to achieve shared goals. The good news is that trust is an equation with 5 factors. When you understand these factors and put strategies in place to build them, you will strengthen your team’s foundation and succeed. 


Think of people you trust on your teams. Write down the things about them that make them trustworthy. See if you can connect what you write to the 5 key factors for trust. How can you explain why they trust you based on the 5 key factors? 

The 5 factors of trust

Benevolence: Benevolence means well-meaning or kind. When people are benevolent toward us, we believe they mean well and have our best interests at heart, even when we don’t always agree with them.

Reliability: When people do what they say and follow through on promises, we see them as reliable. We know we can count on them to be there for us when we need help.

Openness: People who are open communicate well. They tell us what is on their mind and listen to us. When someone is open, we feel comfortable sharing ideas or how we feel about things in our life.

Honesty: We can’t trust people who do not tell the truth. Honesty is a cornerstone for trust. Honest people can be counted on to speak the truth, even when it isn’t what we want to hear. 

Competence: When people are informed and knowledgeable, we trust their opinions and believe what they say is factual and true. We can’t take advice or learn from others who do not know what they are talking about.

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9 ways to become trustworthy and build trust on your teams

  1. Show your feelings – Be honest about how you feel. Use expressive language to help people see you as open and honest. Expressive language includes sharing not only what happened but also how it made you feel. When other team members understand how you feel about decisions they are making or how meetings are conducted, they will listen to your suggestions more intently and make changes that make you feel comfortable. In the absence of language, people make assumptions about how each other feel that are often not accurate. This can lead to a lot of unnecessary conflict and inappropriate judgment. Ask questions to your teammates about how they feel. Encourage sharing and honor those feelings.
  2. Avoid self-promotion – Knowing your strengths is important to confidence regulation. But bragging and boasting about them can make you appear less competent and benevolent. Leverage your strengths by doing them, and people will see you as competent and reliable. Encourage team members to identify their strengths when you are assigning tasks and responsibilities. Then people have a safe space to showcase their skills and don’t have to resort to self-promotion.
  3. Stick to your values – People are attracted to others who have a core set of values and live up to them. Don’t sacrifice your values to fit in. People will respect you more when you are consistent and grounded by what you believe. Make a list of shared values on your team and use them to guide your decision-making.
  4. Admit mistakes – We all make mistakes. Competent, honest and open people admit when they are wrong and apologize when necessary. When you admit you made a mistake, people will trust you and know that you are self-reflective and ready to grow and learn. At the end of each project, take a moment to reflect on the mistakes the team made. Create a strategy to prevent the mistakes from happening again. 
  5. Help people – People see you as benevolent, or well-meaning, when you help them. Look for ways to help people. From simply holding a door for someone to going out of your way to help a friend, helping others is an important way to show you care and that you are interested in their well-being. If one of your team members is struggling personally or professionally, offer to help. Have your team note birthdays and major life events and celebrate or support each other through the ups and downs. 
  6. Be honest and consistent – When you are honest, you can be consistent. When we have to keep track of lies, we end up making mistakes and eventually getting caught. Trust is built on honesty, so even when it is hard, be honest. Honor your commitments and promises. Make it a team practice to use a consensus building activity where each team member has a chance to honestly comment on the work you are doing, the decisions you are making and the processes you are using to work together. 
  7. Participate openly and give constructive feedback respectfully – Giving feedback requires we are paying attention to details. Showing others you are interested. Helping them to see others’ perspectives or to improve their work shows that you are well-meaning, competent and interested in them. Teams should have a process built in for feedback. Before a project begins, choose people to carry out tasks, talk about their past performance and why they are the right person for the job. During a project, take a few moments to reflect on what is going well and give feedback to each other on the work underway. When a project ends, have a feedback session where each team member identifies strengths and areas for growth for each team member. Set goals individually and as a team to address the feedback.
  8. Make decisions carefully and think through consequences – Good decisions help others see you as competent. When you consider how your decisions impact others, it builds benevolence and openness. Create a process for decision-making. Consider using a dialogue before you come to a decision. Start with a brainstorm where team members seek to understand the problem you are solving and the potential intended and unintended outcomes. Once everyone has ideas down, distill them into potential options. Then have a talk about where the goal is to reach a decision. Taking time to fully understand a decision can foster consensus. Every team member may not love your decision, but everyone will understand it fully and see why it is the best choice.
  9. Communicate effectively – It isn’t always what you say, but how you say it. Consider how others will hear what you say. Create messages that they will understand. Make sure they know that you have their best interests in mind. Use words and phrases that show you have listened and are taking their perspectives to heart. Practice conversational communication, expressive communication and persuasive communication. Make sure everyone on the team has adequate time to fully share their thoughts and feelings. Don’t rush people and don’t cut them off.
JAKAPA can help strengthen teams. We measure, train and track 32 key skills that can help you build trust. Teams use our self and peer assessments to build a skills-focused culture free of judgment. Our data can help your team understand why some projects go well and others don’t. It can help you make sure the right people are assigned the right tasks. You can also use our system to build skills. By using JAKAPA 10-15 minutes each day, your team can build the critical skills needed to work together effectively. 

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