Why trust is crucial to team success

by Kayla Crum on Mar 14, 2024

If you’ve never seen meaningful change as a result of team development, it’s probably because your team lacked the most crucial aspect of cohesion: trust. So how do you make this vital, intangible asset a reality for your team? Believe trust matters for your bottom line, understand what trust really means, and then start building trust by example.

High trust means better business outcomes

If you’re not convinced that trust is key to success, consider recent data from the Harvard Business Review. High–trust companies report:

  • 74% less stress
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 40% less burnout

In that study, a high-trust organization is defined as “one in which employees feel safe to take risks, express themselves freely, and innovate.” These traits lead to increased collaboration, communication, and ultimately better business outcomes.

By contrast, low–trust organizations tend to exhibit behaviors like the hoarding of ideas and resources because they don’t trust their colleagues with information. This leads to slower decision–making and lower efficacy.

Trust is well-researched

The Harvard Business Review isn’t breaking new ground by identifying trust as a key business asset. Over a decade ago, the Aristotle project begun by Google unearthed five key characteristics of enhanced teams:

  • Psychological safety
  • Dependability
  • Structure and clarity
  • Meaning
  • Impact

Trust is central to the first three characteristics identified, and arguably makes up a large part of meaning and impact, as well. This project involved over 180 individual teams within Google’s organization and shocked the business community at the time.

But as early as 2002, consulting expert Patrick Lencioni was already emphasizing the importance of trust. He wrote his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team based on his work with thousands of executive level leaders, and trust was both the top issue and interwoven into the other four:

  • Absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict
  • Lack of commitment
  • Avoidance of team accountability
  • Inattention to team objectives

It is clear that for decades, trust has been reliably regarded as critical to business success. So how do you begin to implement a culture of trust with your team?

How to build trust with your team

The first and most important way to start building trust as a leader is through your own actions. The Harvard Business Review recommends increasing transparency, authenticity, and reliability. Actions such as admitting mistakes, adhering to regular feedback rhythms, and sharing the rationale for decisions go a long way towards these goals.

When you work with our coaches here at Teamalytics, your Teamalytics 360 report can help you ascertain how well you perform these actions, with behaviors such as lower Nurturing and even higher Self-Control pointing to specific risk areas in building trust. High scores on Criticality can also indicate someone’s risk of negating their trust efforts.

Once you’ve started demonstrating trustworthy leadership, the next step is building trust among team members. Here at Teamalytics, we’ve worked with thousands of companies over the past thirty years. Through these experiences, we have seen the benefit of establishing team standards for behavior.

One way to do this is to implement a formal Social Contract. This type of document is concise and values-focused, and most importantly, it is created by the team itself. When team members have a hand in establishing their own standards for behavior, they are much more likely to adhere to the expectations.

Trust matters for business outcomes, is a well-researched characteristic of successful teams, and can be developed with a little intention and collaboration. If you want some guidance on how to go about building trust with the benefit of a data-driven approach, download our free guide “Building A-Teams: Balancing Results and Relationships for Long-Term Success” today.