Trust is the most important step to building a successful team, and is the foundation to all other behaviors.Ready to create high-functioning teams in your workplace? In the world of team building, it all begins with one word: trust.  

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series about team building, based on the concepts presented in Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and his model, Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.


At one point or another, all of us experience feelings of mistrust. Maybe it’s with a friend who has stabbed you in the back, or maybe once upon a time you had someone else’s back and they didn’t have yours.

Either way, we all know that trust is one of the keys to successful relationships, whether they’re romantic, platonic or professional in nature. Without it, there is no hope for building a productive partnership. It’s that simple.

The same goes for teams, whether they are in the workplace or on an athletic field. So it’s no surprise that trust is the first element needed in order to build cohesive teams. Patrick Lencioni stresses this in his model, Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team:

Trust can only happen when team members are willing to be completely vulnerable with one another. There is confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around each other.

Why trust?

Trust is the most important step to building a successful team, and is the foundation to all other behaviors. Without it, it’s like building your house on sand – it will surely crumble. Individuals must have the willingness to experience vulnerability-based trust in order to foster a team environment that encourages healthy conflict. And healthy conflict is essential for teams to not only function, but to raise the bar in order to commit to a specific project or goal. You can’t have accountability without trust.

How do you build trust?

Trust within a team begins with deep insight – for both individuals and peers. This is the most effective way to not only understand each other, but to also get comfortable with each other and the idea of being transparent about personal limitations. Your team will not be able to handle healthy conflict – which is essential for teams in order to raise the bar and commit to a project or goal – until there is trust.

One of the first things I do with teams is to help them come up with a good definition of trust as it relates to teamwork. An effective way to do this is to start with what it isn’t. We all have great examples or experiences with others when our trust has been violated. Another great exercise is for individuals to share aspects of their personal history. This helps each of us understand the backgrounds of others, so we can celebrate our differences and acknowledge our similarities. 

Trust brings good things

When a team develops trust, it fosters a willingness to be vulnerable, to be able to say things like, “I don’t really know the answer to that question,” or, “I made a mistake, and I’m really sorry about that.”

Trust is key for relationships to be authentic, unfiltered and real. Trust is actually the behavior I spend the most time on with teams, because it’s difficult. We all have very diverse and varied life experiences.Some of us have counted on someone to catch us when we fall (both literally and figuratively), but we’ve been dropped, mistreated or ignored. That can make being able to trust others in a team environment incredibly difficult…but it’s so worth it.  Organizations can only go so far without it.

What do you think?

How do you foster trust in your own relationships and workplace? Do you have any tips or ideas to share? Please leave your comments below.

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