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How to build trust for effective teamwork

Achieving GoalsHow effective is the teamwork in the teams you work in or lead? Trust is essential for effective teamwork, do you trust your colleagues to support each other in pursuing the team’s goals? Or do they think about their own goals first?

It takes time and experience to build trust: if you think about the people you trust the most, they are likely to be people you have known for some time, have done many things together and you know how they are likely to respond.  Yet at work we are asked to collaborate with others in teamwork right from the start, even though there is no history between us encouraging trust and mutual respect.

Think of the teamwork in your teams – are any of these symptoms rife?

  • Team members conceal their lack of knowledge, expertise, skill or connections from each other
  • Team members don’t like to ask for help or hesitate to offer help
  • Team members hesitate to provide constructive feedback
  • There is unresolved conflict between team members
  • Team members make assumptions and jump to conclusions about each other, without checking their understanding
  • Team members waste time and effort ‘playing games’ or managing their behaviours for effect
  • Behaviours at team meetings are poor – people arrive late, are distracted by mobile communications, talk over each other, actions are not completed or followed up on, there is poor understanding of what the teamwork is to achieve….

Building trust is a first step towards effective teamwork and the team leader (or team coach) can create the circumstances that encourage the rapid building of trust by some simple interventions.  For example:

  • Ask team members to answer some simple questions to share some of their personal life with colleagues.  This can be done at a kick-off meeting or at the beginning of team meetings on a more regular basis and can cover topics such as siblings/family, where grew up, particular challenges from childhood, hobbies, personal ambitions, etc.
  • Conduct a team effectiveness review using a technique such as Stop/Start/Continue and ask each team member to identify the single most important contribution each of their peers makes to the team that they should continue to do, one area they should stop doing or improve upon for the good of the team and one thing they should start doing for the good of the team.  The review is conducted by focusing on one person at a time, starting with the team leader.  The focus is on understanding the elements for effective teamwork.
  • Conduct personality profiling (eg using MBTI or a similar tool) and facilitate a team activity to share preferences and discuss how to best communicate with each other.  The personality profile should be conducted by a qualified professional and individuals receive one-to-one feedback first, before sharing with others.  It can be beneficial for a team coach or similar professional to conduct the team activity.
  • Build review and feedback into the team processes, so team members become used to sharing and being open to give and receive feedback for the good of the team and highlighting productive teamwork.

These techniques can speed up the process of building trust between team members, and they can’t be done in isolation, but need reinforcing in the day-to-day course of work.  Also, if there is conflict between team members, this needs to be dealt with as soon as possible, so that it doesn’t fester and contaminate teamwork.  Ensure team members buy into the mutual purpose of the team and show mutual respect, both during teamwork and during normal work to enhance trust.

If you would like to discuss these points or know more about building effective teams, please contact me or leave a comment below.



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