10 ways to build trust in a team

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
 and 
  —  
December 13, 2022
An image of a team working together around a table in an office

If you're a team leader or manager, then you already know how important it is to build trust within your team.

Trust is the foundation that allows teams to collaborate more effectively — the glue that makes teams more than the sum of their parts. Of course, building trust isn't always easy — especially if you're starting from scratch with a new team, or working across timezones, borders, and even hemispheres.

In this blog post, we'll share 10 techniques that you can use to build trust in your team. But first, let's talk about the levels and benefits of trust.

What does trust look like in a team?

A team where everyone trusts one another is characterized by a high level of cooperation and collaboration, as well as mutual respect. Members feel safe to voice their opinions without fear of criticism or judgment, knowing that their thoughts are valued and respected. They are comfortable with each other’s skills, abilities, and expertise, allowing for easier problem-solving, and faster iteration.

When no one's ego comes first, it becomes possible to base your discussions purely on the merits of ideas, smoothing (and hastening) the process of arriving at the best outcomes.

Levels of trust

When building and maintaining trust within a team, it is important to recognize that there are different levels of trust. Obviously, this isn't a definitive list, but the levels can largely be broken down into three distinct categories:

  1. Foundational: On the most basic level, there is an expectation that team members can be relied upon to do their part and keep any promises or agreements they have made.
  2. Established: At the next level, there is the understanding that each member has the best interests of the team at heart and can be trusted to act with integrity.
  3. Vulnerable: Finally, there is a level of trust in which each member knows that they can rely on each other for support as well as professional guidance.

Benefits of building trust among a team

Building trust within a team offers numerous advantages and benefits. Firstly, when there is trust among the members, it helps foster cooperation, encouraging collaboration on projects and tasks that require different skill sets. This allows for faster completion of assignments since everyone is working together to get things done efficiently.

Secondly, when there is a trusting atmosphere in the team, people are more likely to open up and share their ideas and insights. This encourages creativity which can lead to innovative solutions.

Lastly, when trust exists among members, they are better able to handle disagreements or conflicts constructively and reach a resolution faster.

Related: How to foster team engagement that lasts + templates

10 ways to build trust in a team

1. Set expectations and boundaries

Setting expectations and boundaries within a team is an important step in building trust. Having clear guidelines on how team members should communicate and behave with each other allows everyone to feel comfortable and safe in their work environment. 

Establishing boundaries helps everyone better understand their roles, responsibilities, and expectations by providing structure, consistency, and stability. Setting expectations also centers the overall goals of the project, which increases productivity.

2. Create a space for psychological safety

Open communication is essential to building trust in a team. Encourage everyone to communicate openly and honestly with each other, without fear of judgment or criticism. Make sure that all voices are heard and respected so that everyone feels comfortable.

Related: Psychological safety: a critical element for imagination work

Being vulnerable in a team setting is an essential part of building trust. By being open and honest about our flaws, mistakes, and challenges, we can create an environment of transparency where team members feel free to express their ideas and opinions without fear of judgment or repercussions. Vulnerability also encourages collaboration and understanding among team members, as they can relate to each other and work together to find solutions.

3. Demonstrate transparency

As a team leader, it's important to share information with your team openly and honestly, and be willing to listen to their feedback. It also means being willing to admit when you're wrong and taking responsibility for your mistakes. When team members feel like they can trust you, they'll be more likely to work cooperatively with you and support your decisions.

4. Conduct team-building activities

An image of the Mural hybrid team ice breakers template
The Mural (free and editable) Hybrid Team Ice Breakers template

Team-building activities like ice breakers or offsites are important for a number of reasons. When people get to know each other better and have the opportunity to work together in a relaxed setting, they are more likely to develop a trusting relationship.

Team-building activities help to improve communication. By participating in fun and interactive exercises, team members learn how to communicate more effectively with each other. This can lead to improved productivity and collaboration on projects.

Also, team-building activities can enhance morale and motivation. When team members feel appreciated and supported by their colleagues, they are more likely to be productive and motivated in their work.

Related: 10 work team-building activities your coworkers will love

5. Hold regular one-on-one meetings to check in

While it may seem counterintuitive in a team context, one-on-one meetings and check-ins are essential for building trust in a team. This is because they provide an opportunity for team members to communicate openly and candidly with their manager, share updates, and discuss ways to resolve any conflicts that may have arisen.

Additionally, one-on-one meetings provide a chance for team members to discuss their progress and give feedback to their leader. This helps leaders identify any potential issues or areas of improvement and allows them to address these problems before they become bigger problems.

6. Communicate effectively

Communication is key to any successful relationship, and the same holds true for relationships among team members. Good communication allows team members to share information, but great communication leads to a better understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities, and how to bring together everyone's unique skills to accomplish your goals more quickly, and in more innovative ways.

In order to communicate effectively, team members need to be able to listen attentively and without judgment. They also need to be willing to express their opinions openly and honestly. By communicating respectfully and constructively, team members can build trust and cooperation within the team.

Related: The definitive guide to effective asynchronous communication

7. Be the first to admit when you're wrong

It's easy to get defensive when things don't go according to plan. As a leader, however, it is important to take responsibility for your actions and admit when you're wrong. This shows team members that you are open to feedback and willing to learn from your mistakes. Doing this will also foster a growth mindset, where failure is not defining and instead regarded as a natural part of the learning process.

8. Show appreciation for each team member's contribution

No one can achieve success on their own — it takes a team. And when a team is successful, it's because everyone has contributed in some way.

That's why it's so important to recognize the contributions of everyone on your team, across all skill areas and departments. When people feel appreciated and valued for their contributions, they are more likely to be motivated and productive in their work.

Acknowledging the successes of every team member is also important. It builds morale and helps to create a sense of camaraderie among coworkers. When people feel like they're part of a winning team, they're more likely to be committed to achieving even greater things together.

Related: How to foster team engagement that lasts

9. Celebrate milestones together

Celebrating milestones and achievements provides a sense of purpose and direction, and gives team members something to work towards. When everyone is working together towards a common goal and can track progress in a clear and collaborative way, it builds camaraderie and strengthens the team bond.

That's why it's so important to celebrate milestones and achievements together as a team. Doing so not only recognizes everyone's contributions, but also helps to keep everyone motivated and focused on achieving even more.

10. Lead by example

Leading by example is critical in any team setting, as it demonstrates to other members of the team that their leader has integrity and is willing to take responsibility for their actions. It also serves to motivate the rest of the team, as they will be inspired by the leader's commitment to excellence and will strive to emulate them.

Leading by example also helps to build a sense of trust and camaraderie within the team, as they can look to their leader for guidance and support.

Building team trust can take time

... But it’s worth it. Trust creates a collaborative and productive environment that allows your team to perform at its highest level. With these 10 tips, you can start building trust within your team today.

Remember: It's a cliché for a reason — trust isn't something that happens overnight, so be patient and focus on creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding among your team members.

In taking the time to build trust within a team, leaders can create an environment of collaboration, understanding, and growth that will ultimately lead to improved productivity, efficiency, and success. By implementing the above strategies into your team’s culture, you can ensure that everyone is working together as a unit and achieving results.

Bring your team together with a shared digital space and intuitive features that build engagement, transparency, and yes — trust. Get started today with an ice breaker and invite unlimited members, so your whole team can get involved.  

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About the author

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.