Trust within a team is essential for success.

“How can I get my team to gel?”

When Ken contacted me, his first question was, “How can I get my team to gel?”

You may have asked yourself a similar question. No matter what role we play on a team, we’ve probably found ourselves at one time or another in a group that struggled to connect with each other. What could the underlying cause of this issue be?

In a word – trust.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni identified trust – or the lack of it – as the root cause of most other problems within teams. Micromanaging, second guessing, cliques, and even sabotage can rear their ugly heads when team members don’t trust each other. Even if the problems aren’t that extreme, a low level of trust among colleagues can negatively affect productivity and morale.

As Ken and I talked, we realized that the amount of trust among his team could probably do with some TLC. And as the team leader, Ken was ready to put together a plan to address this need.

So how do we build trust on a team?

We can start by encouraging vulnerability with each other.

Being Vulnerable Builds Trust

In a work setting, Lencioni describes being vulnerable as being willing to say things like, “I need some help,” “I made a mistake,” “I don’t know,” and “I’m sorry.” To take these kinds of risks, everyone on the team needs to know that it’s safe to ‘fess up, apologize, and ask for help. Creating that environment takes time and consistency.

That sense of safety can also really benefit from team leadership that’s willing to model vulnerability. When the supervisor tells the team about the mistake she made with a client, or when the manager shares that he asked a colleague for help resolving a particularly thorny situation, these leaders are letting their teams know that it’s OK to be vulnerable with each other.

Encouraging a Growth Mindset

This kind of positive attitude toward obstacles and mistakes reflects a growth mindset. When a growth mindset is baked into the team culture, mistakes and challenges are seen as opportunities for learning, not shameful failures that need to be hidden. Teams who adopt a growth mindset allow themselves to take more educated risks. They’re more willing to get creative. They’re more likely to have each other’s backs. And all of these things can have a positive effect on the level of trust among team members.

Putting Trust Into Action

Ken and I developed some steps he could take with his team. Collaboratively creating some team “rules of engagement” that included being vulnerable with each other was part of the plan. So was having conversations with them about the benefits of adopting a growth mindset. Ken also made a commitment to lead by example and model vulnerability for the team. And while the process takes time – trust needs to be earned and can’t be improved overnight – Ken saw the cohesiveness of his group improve with their renewed commitment to strengthening trust.

Want more ideas about how to build a strong team? Check this out!