Trust in Teams
Also see these two case studies illustrating how important
trust is for productive teams and as an element of successful
A Question of Trust
it on Trust
How important is ‘trust’ in international
relationships? Most people instinctively see it as essential
but elusive. It can act both as the lubricant which
brings out the best in team cooperation as well as the
glue which binds whole teams and work groups together
under the strains of geographical distance and cultural
diversity. Research indicates that there are clear links
between trust and overall team effectiveness, levels
of innovation and creativity, and a team’s readiness
to adapt and accept change.
Low levels of trust affect bottom-line productivity
as people minimise their vulnerability by 'playing safe',
ever more elaborate and costly checking systems are introduced,
offers of advice are ignored, and valuable but sensitive
information is withheld. This all leads to communication
breakdowns, defensiveness, poor team learning and higher
levels of anxiety. Team energies are diverted away from
the external needs of the customer towards second guessing
the real motives of colleagues internally.
When working across different national boundaries the
building blocks of trust are even less available. We tend
to place higher initial trust with friends, family members
or people who share our way of thinking and behaving.
Foreigners don't so easily fall into these categories.
The meaning of trust is not universal - vertrauen in German
has different associations compared to fiducia in Italian
which, in turn, is conceptually different from trust for
Anglo-Saxons – so we may conclude that people from
other cultures are untrustworthy simply because we have
grown up to give different emphasis to a range of trustworthiness
But, when was the last time you explored the issue of
trust explicitly with your work colleagues? How many team-building
processes explicitly explore the issue of trust or seek
to measure and build trust between team members? It is
rare because it is such a sensitive issue which touches
people's very identity. So we tend to bury it....and hope
for the best.
The Trust Criteria
Because one of the key challenges for international teams
is the establishment of an atmosphere of mutual trust,
WorldWork has developed a unique process to enable teams
to explore this critical factor.
Based on available research we have identified 10 different
‘Criteria’ that people from many different
cultures use to decide whether to trust others. These
- Open with Information
The International Team Trust Indicator
Based on these trust criteria, we have developed a process
to identify levels of trust and the trust 'deficit' within
any given team or workgroup. Using the trust criteria outlined
above, the ITTI can used to assess levels of trust, and
- between members of a team or work group
- between a team and the team leader
- between a team and the wider organisational environment
in which it operates
For the International Team Trust Indicator each team
member completes a questionnaire which identifies for
them the behaviours and attitudes they need from their
colleagues if they are to trust them, and also what they
are actually experiencing in this respect. These individual
results are then pooled to provide an overall report for
the team as a whole. The report contains a range of graphical
analysis options that will enable the team leader and
team members to identify the nature of any trust deficits
within the team.
The same process is used for the Team Leader and Organisational
You can download a sample ITTI report in pdf (shortened)
The ITTI provides some important benefits for all teams
and work groups, but especially for those operating across
boundaries of culture, language and distance. These include:
- How trusting is your team? - an understanding
of the differing levels of trust disposition among
the team members
- Do we understand trust in the same way?
- a comparison of the differing emphasis each team
member gives to the carefully researched international
- Where in the team do trust deficits exist?
- highlighting the critical trust gaps between key relationships
within the team
- What specific behaviours do we need to enhance
to reduce the trust deficit? - practical suggestions
as to where the team needs to focus in order to build
trust across the whole team
- How can we work towards higher levels of trust?
- guidelines for team leaders in conducting short
workshops towards 'team trust alignment'