Most people recognize the importance of trust in their personal relationships. When we are children, we learn to trust our parents. We learn who the trusted adults in our lives are. By adolescence, we’ve learned that friendships are built on trust and that trust underpins relationships with our significant others. We have to trust our spouses for a marriage to thrive.
In the workplace, it’s easy to forget the importance of trust. Workers are often assigned to teams composed of people they don’t know much about. Competition breeds distrust. Gossip gives rise to negative impressions. Team members can become defensive. People may form cliques in order to feel protected.
When these negative interactions take root in a team, its dysfunction becomes inevitable. Imagine how well a football team would play if its members didn’t rely on each other. Worse, imagine if they focused more on fighting each other than playing the game. Imagine if they forgot about the opposing team and started tackling each other.
When teams become mired in unhealthy competition and seek to undermine each other rather than doing their jobs, they become like the football team playing against itself. We all know the end result of a football team playing against itself is a crushing defeat, provided the opposing team has its act together. A team in business is no different. As a customer, would you buy from a company where the employees work at cross purposes or go with a competitor whose employees work together?
To lead a successful team, Angela Kambouris, CEO of Kambouris Consultancy, counsels managers to encourage collective problem solving. Team members should trust each other to do their jobs. Worrying about what other team members are doing creates distrust. With each member doing their part, the team can work together to overcome obstacles and solve problems. As each project roadblock is overcome, the team builds more trust.
Getting a team to that point may take some time. Trust isn’t built overnight. To gain trust, team members must prove themselves through small actions. By consistently performing and behaving in a professional, competent, and team-centered way, team members come to rely on each other. They also come to respect each other’s contributions and attributes.
Trust forms when team members show consistency of character. When each member knows that the others always act according to the best interests of the team and with honesty, a positive culture forms. That positive culture then transfers into a highly functional, results-driven team.