Trust is the essential ingredient that binds every successful team together. Building trust takes time, especially within virtual teams where face-to-face interactions are few and far between. And as many of us have learned the hard way, it takes only a moment to destroy.
To build trust within their teams, leaders must first understand the four components that create it.
In a recent interview with the Small Business Advocate host Jim Blasingame, I discussed these four elements and how to enhance them.
Credibility is the extent to which your team believes in what you have to say about a given topic. It’s demonstrated through experience in a particular area and a proven track record of achieving results. If you lack credibility as a leader, it can be difficult to build trust within your team.
In this instance, it’s important to acknowledge your limitations and consult someone else within your team or outside the team for an expert opinion.
Other ways to improve credibility within your team:
- Avoid exaggeration
- Answer direct questions with direct answers
- Offer to help find a solution
- Build partnerships with team members at different locations and rotate them
While credibility is demonstrated by your words, reliability is demonstrated through actions. Simply put, it’s following through on your commitments time after time. If you or someone within your team has damaged trust by missing deadlines or failing to follow through on something, acknowledge it and talk about what you can do to rectify the situation. Determine what you’ll do in the future to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
That may be asking for help sooner, delegating responsibilities to someone else or determining how to shift priorities.
Other ways to improve reliability within your team:
- Make many small promises and keeping them
- Make your work process consistent
- Make your work visible
- Use the same terminology that others use
- Clarify roles within the team
Intimacy is developed in two ways. First, it’s developed by demonstrating empathy, which is communicating that you understand the others person’s situation. When leaders take the initiative to demonstrate empathy and encourage others to do the same, team members form stronger bonds.
Intimacy is also based on the knowledge that someone can confide in you about their concerns or a business issue and that you will use discretion with that information. When you or someone within your team divulges information that was shared in confidence, it erodes trust that can be difficult to recover.
Building intimacy within a team involves taking some risks and can be awkward at first. Here are some small steps your team can take:
- Set up an internal page, a social media team page or a shared document where people are encouraged to share their comments
- Share your feelings
- Show empathy
- Have non-work conversations
- Be accessible
- Use video tools to have both scheduled and spontaneous conversations with virtual employees
The final component of trust reflects whether or not others believe you have their best interests at heart. If they believe you do, they may be more willing to forgive a lapse in another area, such as a missed deadline.
However, if they believe you are only looking out for your own interests, they will be less likely to trust you.
Here are a few ways to show you care:
- Avoid interrupting people
- Identify shared goals
- Look for common ground
- Find out what’s important to others
- Get input and buy-in
Teams that make a conscious effort to build trust have less conflict and are more productive. While there’s no app for that and it isn’t something you can delegate, you can make an investment in building trust through self-assessment that help people understand their current level of trustworthiness and training programs that help people understand the elements of trust and actions they can take to build and sustain trust.