Building Trust in High Performance Teams


Teams are simply groups of human beings. And can only move at the pace of the relationships that connect people together. More importantly, the relationships within a team have a direct impact on how quickly and successfully an organization orients and achieve its goals.

In our recent article on Building Dream Teams, we highlighted the 5 C’s for successful teams: Connection, Communication, Consensus, Collaboration, and Cohesion. What critically supports the development of these team attributes is the individual ability to trust others as well as offer psychological and emotional safety. The resulting sense of belonging, healthy practices and mindsets, and the ability to overcome challenges together are what make relationships stronger and more vital to the team and organizational growth. Developing this depth of relational trust relies heavily on having healthy doses of both authenticity and vulnerability.

Brene Brown, in the TED talk on the Power of Vulnerability, shares that in order to make meaningful connections to others, individuals must use courage to overcome any personal insecurities and negative self-perceptions such as having weaker capabilities than others, discomfort owning mistakes, hesitancy asking for help or disengagement from others. Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, and Andy Fleming in their book, An Everyone Culture, name the waste of an organization’s time, energy, and talent when people are managing or hiding their weaknesses or mistakes vs. focusing full effort on their real job at hand. Echoed by Patrick Lencioni of the Table Group, “It requires team members to make themselves vulnerable to one another, and be confident that their respective vulnerabilities will not be used against them. The costs of failing to do this are great. Teams that lack trust waste inordinate amounts of time and energy managing their behaviors and interactions within the group.”

A further example of team behavior that has huge benefits when unlocked is the ability to take risks together. The psychological safety that is required for people to speak up in a timely way, to add input strategically, and to speak the truth that might otherwise go unsaid fuels connection and possibility that are so necessary for organizations. When we do not feel safe with each other, our fight-or-flight impulse reacts instead and gets in the way of the authentic relationships we need to make work go smoothly.

So then, what can leaders do to develop authenticity, vulnerability and trust in their teams?

Share personal stories.

Get to know enough personal history and background to create the context for what might make someone feel “lesser than” or unsafe on the team. Understand what makes them tick from a place of genuine curiosity. Sharing our stories generates connection through shared experiences, fuels energy for partnership, and amplifies empathy and compassion. You are more likely to help someone or forgive them if you understand their history.

    • What are you most proud of in your life?
    • What are some challenges that have shaped how you think and work today?
    • What do you need to feel trusting, safe, and engaged here?

Hold an “Appreciation Circle.”

Each of us wants to feel seen, heard, and valued. Take time to appreciate and acknowledge the contributions of team members on a regular basis. After a win, particularly at team milestones and achievements, notice what someone did well and appreciate one another out loud in front of the team. Spending time to do this goes a long way towards deepening ties on the team.

    • What do you value in one another?
    • What do you appreciate and can articulate in real-time?
    • What did you notice that a teammate contributed that really made a difference?
    • Why do you enjoy working with each individual on your team?

Share your personal and professional goals.

Allow your team members to support your growth by sharing what it is that you are working on. Whether you’re working with an Executive Coach and have a personal plan, or a Team Coach with a collective goal, making these goals visible helps make room for vulnerability, empathy, and compassion. We are always growing.

    • What do you want your teammates to know about your personal growth and challenges?
    • How does what you’re working on positivity affect the team’s own progress and growth?

Create a culture of feedback.

An excellent resource, The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. Feedback and performance management or reviews have a bad rap. They make people feel under the microscope and performative if they’re feeling insecure. To reimagine feedback as coaching realigns the person-to-person relationship, creating openings for learning, growing, relating, and supporting.

  • How do you help your teammates know and feel that you have their back?
  • How do you share input that creates safety and encourages the learning culture for your team?

Have team rituals, rhythms, and routines.

Having team rituals help foster a sense of belonging. There are celebrations big and small that unite the team in a social sense as much as it’s about working together. Team spirit when fostered authentically allows members to share a sense of fun, playfulness, and joy at work. Rhythms and routines are the predictable, supportive ways of getting work done. It’s absolutely essential and OK to like your teammates and to have fun working together.

  • What rituals already exist that work well for your team?
  • What new rituals can add more play, fun, and joy for your team?
  • What rhythms and routines in the form of check-ins, “circling back” clearing conversations, and meetings need to happen?

Did you like what you learned here today? If so, and you’d like to go a little further, contact us at info@intunecollective.com or our contact form with any questions about these practices, about what your team is currently facing, and how we might support you with a 30 min call with one of our consultants. We also facilitate interactive, innovative, and transformative Leadership Offsites. As you prepare for 2022, we’d love to help you design the best engagement possible to move you forward with confidence and a clear strategy.