How to Build Team Trust Using Hacks from the 8 Pillars Model

Most managers at some point or another, ask how to build team trust. We thought we’d take a different angle to the standard answers that you’ll find. And so, In this article, we’ll talk about the cost of trust and the tax you may be  ‘paying’, as well as how to quickly build a foundation of trust in your team.

How to Build Team Trust? Build Confidence

No matter which way you cut it, trust means confidence.

The opposite of trust is suspicion. And where there is suspicion, you pay for it in speed and cost.

When trust is reduced, then speed goes down and cost normally goes up.

Confidence After 9 /11 Terror Attacks

Take the airport security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While trust in accepting passengers from one airport to the next reduced, the speed of security clearance reduced.

At the same time, cost increased through additional resources and time needed, to ensure safety superseded trust when travelling.

This is the same in an organisation. Take behavioural change.

Speed and Cost of Trust in Organisational Change

If employees don’t believe in what management are saying, and don’t trust in them, then the speed of change will reduce.

This then means that there will be a higher cost to change, as more resources and time will have to go into the programme to make it happen, not to mention mistakes and conflict arising, which causes productivity losses, too.

Take trust from a team member – If they don’t believe you, then the speed of getting things done quite probably will reduce, and so too productivity – meaning the cost of work increases.

This link between trust, speed and cost, can be extrapolated across all relationships.

Stephen Covey highlighted this fact in his book “The Speed of Trust.”

He identifies that the traditional formula for success of Strategy x Execution = Results….. Has been replaced by:

(Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results

Covey points out that a company can have an excellent strategy and a strong ability to execute, but it will be torpedoed by a low trust ‘tax’.

In other words, trust is the confident belief:

  • To do what is right;
  • To deliver what is promised;
  • To be the same every time, no matter what the circumstance.

And when trust is established, you are normally given the benefit of the doubt, rather than having to justify everything you say or do.

Again, the more trust, the faster things happen and the less cost incurred, as a result.

Trust is a Premium

Building trust is getting harder. Through globalisation and easy access to information, people don’t have much trust these days. In fact, Covey himself argues that there is currently a trust crisis in the world today.

From media, to companies, governments to technology – most people reside in a trust deficit. We just don’t believe much of what we’re told.

In fact, in research from Datamonitor, they found that 86 percent of consumers are less trusting of companies than they were five years ago.

In addition, an estimated 2 out of 5 employees don’t trust the intentions of their employers.

On a corporate level, this has a big impact on the speed at which you can work. That dreaded trust tax increases for every percent of suspicion in you and your company.

If you get it right, though, you can revel in a competitive advantage that most of your competitors get wrong.

By improving trust, you can literally increase the output of your team and create a high performing team, too.

Here’s How to Build Team Trust Using the 8 Pillars

David Horsager, in his book, “The Trust Edge”, highlights the 8 pillars of trust. He argues that you can make a big difference in your team, organisation and branding, by overcoming barriers to trust.

These pillars are:

In order to improve your team’s speed to get things done and to work effectively, you need to implement and excel in these 8 pillars.

How to Build Team Trust: Pillar 1 – Clarity

According to Edelman’s 2009 Trust Barometer, your team needs to hear information about your company, around 3-5 times, before they start to believe it’s true.

A case-in-point for me is when i worked for a large bluechip manufacturing firm. They had their company vision on a large strategy map. This was larger than A0 size. They had copies scattered around the business:

  • In the reception;
  • The communal areas;
  • The manufacturing areas;
  • And they discussed it at all 1-2-1 reviews.

Their strategic objectives were so visual, that i still remember them clearly today – and that was over ten years ago.

In order to provide clarity, Horsager identifies 3 different, but equally important areas to focus your actions on:

  1. Vision and purpose – Make it clear what the business’ goals and your team’s objectives are. Put these clearly in sight. Discuss them regularly and ensure that everyone can clearly see how they play a role. Never leave direction and purpose down to assuming people know what they’re doing and why. Tell them, show them, make it visual and discuss regularly – perhaps at weekly team reviews and at 1-2-1 discussions is a good start;
  2. Expectations and communications – Tell the truth in all situations. Never lie and paper over the cracks, no matter how tough the situation is. This goes with feedback and agreeing what you want achieved, as well. If you are ambiguous in what you’re trying to say, it breeds confusion and suspicion. Be direct and clear. This style helps improve trust and makes things transparent. A great model to follow is the One Minute Manager;
  3. Daily Tasks – Ensure tasks are clearly defined and everyone knows what they have to do. Get your team to work to a prioritization system. It’s important to prioritise things quickly, and then get them done. Don’t allow too much time to be lost in planning, and little left to go into execution.

How to Build Team Trust: Pillar 2 – Compassion

The ability to show care, empathy and compassion are a potent mix. A study from 2012, identified that compassionate leaders appear stronger and increase employee engagement.

In another study from 2017, they identified that 91% of leaders in a sample of over 1000, admitted that compassion is very important to being an effective leader. 80% of these respondents said they’d like to improve this skill, but were unsure how to do it.

Here are some quick hacks to improve your compassion.

  1. Listen – Keep eye contact when listening. Listen with your body, and use animated gestures to show interest. Always wait for them to stop talking. Don’t jump in and dictate the conversation;
  2. Appreciate – One of the most effective things you can do is to notice people are doing good work, or the right things. Actively seek opportunities to point these out, rather than pointing out mistakes. When you see something good, tell them what you saw, how it made you feel and to keep up the good work;
  3. Be Present – During conversation, if you notice your mind wandering off onto your next task, bring it back in and only focus on that person’s conversation. Reply, with things like, “So, what i’m hearing you say is….” to show you’re actually listening;
  4. Serve your team – This is obvious but often forgotten. Put your views and agenda aside. Serve your team first. Be there to support them and to take action to help them. Ask the team every morning, “What is it I can help you with today or right now?” Truly work hard to help your team where they need it and follow up on these actions.

How to Build Team Trust: Pillar 3 – Character

It’s a no brainer that having high morals and living by them, ensures you earn more trust and confidence.

On the flip side, it’s just not good practice to preach the ideal and to then go and do something different, because you’re too busy or you’ve had a bad day.

A great example was in an Aerospace business. One of their values was to provide the best quality precision products to their customers. That’s all fine, but when production was squeezed due to high levels of orders, the Quality Director himself was heard saying, “Don’t worry about it, just accept it and see if the customer notices…” 

Building trust through character takes time and effort. It’s a very conscious thing. Here are 3 things you can do to start building the foundation:

  1. Don’t break promises – stick to what you agreed with people;
  2. Values are there for everyone, even you. If you have a bad day, ensure that the value and expectations you discuss with your team, are followed by you, first and foremost;
  3. Ask yourself during the day – “Am i doing the right thing?” If not, realign and change. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. You’ll soon be habitually asking yourself this question without realising, and readdressing when you’re going astray.

How to Build Team Trust: Pillar 4 – Competency

You’ll lead more engaged followers if you are competent. Apple has created a brand of providing highly competent innovative products to the masses. They’ve gained trust and confidence in their brand through this approach.

In terms of leading a team, you need to give confidence by demonstrating competence.

  1. No-one knows it all. Accept that there are gaps in your experience and knowledge. Look to identify these. If you’re good at compassion, but poor at public speaking, be brave and take note of this, so you can look to improve it. In fact, My Skills Profile has a simple matrix to score yourself on some of the most important management and leadership skills you need to be effective;
  2. Create a development plan and identify a roadmap to learn these new skills over time;
  3. Create personal development plans for your team members and show that you actively care in their development – what are their strengths and weaknesses? Where can they develop?;
  4. Look to collaborate with others, so you can learn from them and encourage your team members to link up to learn, too. Follow the 70-20-10 model to help develop both your skills and those of your team.

How to Build Team Trust: Pillar 5 – Commitment

Commitment means believing in your values and sticking to them. It also means working hard to achieve the common goal. In leadership, energising the team to achieve its objectives should start with you.

How do you lead by example? Are you committed to the cause?

The best leaders show a commitment to achieve the results that they envisage, despite going through times of uncertainty.

It’s why Gandhi and Martin Luther King succeeded in achieving equality. They didn’t stop, despite the torture and crimes they faced. Just like them, through commitment, you gain loyal followers, too.

  1. Own up to mistakes – if you get things wrong, don’t try to cover them up. Instead, show humility and accept that mistakes happen;
  2. Learn from mistakes and encourage your team to do the same. What’s important is not the mistake, but asking what happened, so you can put it right for next time. This is continuous improvement in action.

How to Build Team Trust: Pillar 6 – Connection

At its core, trust consists of relationships. The stronger the rapport, the greater trust and confidence.

It’s why someone wouldn’t necessarily trust the words of a stranger, but they’d listen to that same person if someone they trusted advised them to do so.

In a team setting, if we don’t communicate, we lose the ability to get past the superficial side of things and to really understand each other.

The challenge is to get the team connected. The way to do it is through these quick hacks:

  1. Allow the team to collaborate every day – Get them to identify what they have to do and when – agree together how they’ll tackle the day;
  2. Encourage teamwork and learning – Google allows a small portion of everyone’s day to work together on improvement ideas. Try to apportion 10% of your team’s time to do the same, so they can learn and build deeper relationships;
  3. Encourage team building through short, swift exercises. We wrote an article to help you get started, but encourage the team to come together and relax in a team building session. This helps develop rapport.

How to Build Team Trust: Pillar 7 – Contribution

As a leader, you need to be a provider of support and assistance. You need to ensure that your team have the information and resource to get the job done effectively. Focus on these 5 areas to show how you can contribute more:

  1. Attention – Can you notice or acknowledge your team more? Can you improve how often or how you give feedback? The more you acknowledge genuine positive feedback, the more your team develops trust in you and each other;
  2. Resources – Give more of your time to your team. Focus on developing and coaching them, rather than telling and rescuing them. Look to provide more help where they need it, but get them to work things out under your guidance;
  3. Time – Manage your time better. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to improve how you manage your day to day tasks. Ask the team to do the same, so important things are worked on first;
  4. Opportunity – Actively look to give someone a chance, that you may have dismissed previously. Perhaps you may have even rejected someone’s idea? Go back and get them to discuss further – is there a way you can test it on a small scale or even compromise? Try to find ways to give small pockets of opportunity with all team members. From new tasks, to implementing new ideas – the more you do, the more effective it all gets;
  5. Help – Can you help a team member in a more practical way? Do they need more of your time? Can you mentor them? Look for someone who you could help more than what you’ve done so far and plan it in your diary. What about your team – can someone mentor and help another team member? Again, schedule this in your diaries.

How to Build Team Trust: Pillar 8 – Consistency

All the pillars are critical to building team trust, but if you don’t practice them consistently every day, they will fall down. Like the pillars of a building, if they crumble, so too the building itself.

For you as a leader:

  • Note ideas you can implement against each of the hacks above;
  • Plan one or two in at a time;
  • Repeat them every day, until they become the norm;
  • Now add one or two additional ideas, and practice these as well;
  • Keep following this approach until all the steps above have been covered and you’re autonomously practicing the 8 pillars of trust.

For your Team:

This obviously doesn’t stop with you. Building trust in a team, means that your team should follow the 8 pillars of trust, as well.

  • Get them to pick one or two ideas from the list above – perhaps they could agree to daily collaboration and continuous improvement, for instance;
  • Now get them to follow these ideas every day. Make it visual, to remind them of their commitment and ensure they stick to it daily. By visual, i mean adopt best practice from the lean manufacturing world – here’s an article that explains in greater detail how to do it;
  • Repeat these steps, adding one or two additional ideas, when they are comfortable.

Soon, you’ll have a team that is confident in each other and trusts the actions of those around them. This is when you really make strides to becoming a high performing team.