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Ask a leadership coach

Ask a leadership expert:
5 Ways to Build (or Rebuild) Trust
in a Team

By Jenn DeWall Confidence and Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker & Workplace Culture Expert.

One of my favorite authors, Simon Sinek, once said, “A team is not a group of people who work together. It is a group of people who trust each other.” Trust is essential to high-performing teams. Without it, team members may not feel safe speaking up, which could mean your team is missing out on innovative ideas. Or, team members may avoid asking questions, which can easily cause miscommunication. Trust is also essential to good team morale, which can greatly affect employee retention—a huge issue right now. 

Building trust in teams is more challenging than ever. Remote and hybrid workplaces have many challenges that prevent teams from building trusting relationships with co-workers. So what does it take to build—or rebuild trust on a team? 

1. Building Trust Starts with You. The first step to building trust in a team is to show that you are trustworthy. We all have to take accountability for our own actions, words and deeds. So, take care not to over-promise, miss deadlines, or take other people’s time for granted. More importantly, remember that being trustworthy means not gossiping or speaking negatively about your team members. And remember, if you break trust somehow, taking responsibility for your actions is the only way to start repairing trust in your team.

2. Remember You Get What You Give. Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” To build trust in a team, you have to be willing to extend trust to that team. Give people the benefit of the doubt and encourage them to do the same. Sometimes we bring emotional baggage from old jobs or former co-workers that broke trust with us and expect the worst of others. If you want people on your team to extend their trust to you, you will have to do the same.

3. Focus on Relationships. Trust in a team does take time, and finding opportunities to connect face-to-face and get to know each other will make it much easier. Something as simple as eating lunch together (even if it’s over a Zoom meeting) can provide opportunities to learn a little more about each other as individuals. Learning more about what makes your team tick, what keeps them motivated, and what drives them crazy can only help improve overall communication on a team. The more we get to know our co-workers, the easier it is to trust each other and even rebuild trust when someone makes a mistake. 

4. Establish Team Rules. Building trust on a team is a lot easier if everyone agrees to the same ground rules. For example, setting boundaries about when team members are expected to be available and when they are not can prevent misunderstandings, especially on remote teams. Setting expectations upfront and getting buy-in from the whole team is the best way to build trust in a team.

5. Acknowledge Diversity of Experience. We have to do our best to understand that everyone comes from different backgrounds, experiences and cultures. Understanding these differences and how they affect the team is vital to building trust. For example, if one team member can’t meet at 8:00 am because they drop their kids off at school, don’t set team meetings at that time. Accommodating that person will build trust in two ways. First, that team member will feel valued and accepted. Second, everyone can trust each other to be on time for the meeting.  


Jenn DeWall is a motivational speaker, facilitator, trainer, and podcast host. Jenn is a Millennial leadership and culture expert based in Denver, CO. 

Are you looking for an engaging keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, or trainer? Book Jenn for your leadership needs today!

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