In business, successful teams must begin with trust

Important steps your company can take to build an effective team and take your business to the next level

Scott Carroll

Is your business delivering everything you’d like it to? Is it living up to its potential – to its promise? If so, that’s great! This article can help you take your business to the next level. If it’s not, then read on.

Marcus Lemonis, business expert and star of CNBC’s hit show “The Profit” says a common thread among underperforming business is “not understanding the importance of people in your business. You get these small-business owners who really believe they’re the face and engine behind the business, when in fact they’re nothing more than the conductor or the coach.” In its purest form, their job is to select, develop and engage good people – the right people. In short, business owners need to build effective teams.

Creating high-performance teams

Research shows that productive, high-functioning teams make quicker, better-quality decisions; leverage the skills and opinions of all team members; and embrace healthy conflict as a means to strengthen the team and maximize results. They are also more fun to be part of!

The concept of team is simple, but creating and maintaining cohesive and productive teams takes focused effort. Many leaders focus teams on creating results and while results are critical to business success, there are other critical areas that need to be developed first. Patrick Lencioni, author of the international best-seller “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” tells us that the five behaviors of a cohesive team include building trust, mastering conflict, achieving commitment, embracing accountability and then finally focusing on results. Of the five behaviors, trust is the most critical – the foundation that effective, productive teams are built on.

Let’s take a minute to align on what we mean by trust. A standard definition of trust is “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.” For building teams, we’re talking about something different – something more powerful. For the purposes of building a cohesive team, Lencioni defines trust as “the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.”

So how can you determine level of trust in your organization?

A team trust self-assessment

Here’s a simple self-assessment to help you understand your team’s level of trust. Use the following scale to indicate how each statement applies to your team: 3 = Usually / 2 = Sometimes / 1 = Rarely

Be sure to answer each statement honestly and without over-thinking.

A: Team members acknowledge their mistakes and weaknesses to one another.
B: Team members actively ask one another for input regarding their areas of responsibility.
C: Team members are genuine and unguarded in their communications with one another.
D: Team members willingly apologize to one another.

Now combine your scores. A total of 11-12 indicates that trust is probably not a problem for your team. A total of 8-10 indicates that trust could be a problem for your team and should be examined more closely. A total of 4-7 likely indicates an absence of trust and needs to be addressed.

Developing trust

Building trust doesn’t happen overnight. Trust is earned over time, after multiple shared experiences, and through an in-depth understanding of one another. Some important steps to help build trust include:

1 – Understand your current environment and situation by using reliable diagnostic tools like employee engagement surveys, personality assessments and 360-feedback mechanisms.
2 – Encourage open and honest communication among team members and with senior leadership including respectful disagreement, suggestions for improvement and the ability to admit weaknesses without fear of judgment or reprisal.
3 – Create a development-based culture that includes regular coaching conversations by and/or with leaders; focus on personal strengths rather than weaknesses.
Positive change begins with deliberate action. What steps will you take to strengthen trust among your team members?

Scott Carroll is president of Centrixity, a talent management consulting firm headquartered in Vancouver. He and his wife, Patty Carroll, founded Centrixity to help companies more effectively select, develop and engage their people. Learn more at