Building a Trusting Team

Trust plays a vital role in any team-based situation. If there is to be a productive relationship, beyond mere transactional exchange, there must be a sufficient level of trust within the team. Leaders have a responsibility to build a trusting environment that allows members to act with confidence.

The Framework Of Team Building

Part of the creation of a team is the sharing of the mental model or idea of the team. The role of leadership is to create the desired idea and to eliminate ideas that arise from the agendas of factions or individual members. It comes back to the values, vision and mission that are the foundations of the purpose of the team.

Given a clear sense of purpose, the members must commit to it. People will only commit to the purpose if they trust that they will be safe within the team. The sense of safety comes from believing that the other members and earnestly engaged leadership. Trust has the effect of drawing out the will to contribute at the highest level.

Build Trust From The Beginning

The question is: How to build the trust that is required to serve the purpose of the team? It is true that the lofty ideas behind the purpose of the team are important. However, there is a more practical aspect to ensure that the interpersonal conditions allow for trust to emerge.

There are three things that leaders need to do:

  • Select the right people
  • Communicate the mission and values over and again
  • Make certain that the boundaries and purpose are clear and respected

Conflicts between members, poor leadership skills and destructive behaviour will very quickly destroy any possibility of trust. This is an elaborate way of saying that you need to have the right people. Leadership must be actively involved and monitor interactions enough to be able to get a sense of the personalities and relationships. Trust is of course, a two way street. Selecting members that can be trusted is important.

A New Start Among A Legacy Of Factions

In many cases, leaders find they have inherited a toxic team. Assuming that the team wants to be rehabilitated, one of the most important things that a leader can do is to develop and new sense of trust among the team members.

Rehabilitation can often be framed as a new start with a newly refocused vision of the purpose. It is up to the leaders to communicate the purpose to all members. Speaking to the members individually and listening to their opinions is as important as speaking to the team as a whole.

A Symbolic Reframing

This is the point at which an outside coach can do much to establish a new paradigm of trust through a workshop or event. By staging team building exercises and group activities, a coach can provide a symbolic threshold that represents a new beginning or a course correction. This transition reframes the team and serves the vital purpose of building a new sense of trust.


Johnson, Craig T. Meeting The Ethical Challenges of Leadership: Casting Light or Shadow. Edition 3. Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2009.

Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday, 2006.

Welch, Nicole. Five Values. 22 September 2014. (accessed October 26, 2014).

—. Transform Your Team. 8 October 2014. (accessed October 26, 2014).


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