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Coming Up to Speed Part 8: Trust

I’ve saved the best for last in my Coming Up to Speed series. Actually, I organized the seven aspects of onboarding by criticality and ease of implementation. Meaning “trust” takes longer and is more difficult to establish than the others. However, it is the most critical component of building high-performing teams.

Trust has many benefits. One of the most obvious is speed. Teams with extraordinary trust between all members need fewer communication and verification steps. Trust builds engagement and, with it, creativity and passion, which leads to higher-quality output.

My last installment, Team Culture, started to hint at the importance of trust. Part of incorporating new team members into the team culture naturally helps build trust. There’s more you can do.

How does trust work for you? How people view trust can be put on a spectrum.

You may not be on either end of this spectrum. You likely lean towards one end. It’s important to understand that not all people are like you. The odds are good that your team contains people who fall on different parts.

Why does this matter? Building trust is a dance between each team member. The dance plays out over time, often in small ways. Trust was one of ITHAKA’s (my former employer's) core values. When the company president was considering options, there were many choices.

  • Accountability

  • Reliability

  • Empathy

  • Integrity

  • Kindness

  • Thoughtfulness

  • Consistency

The list could contain many vital qualities. These are just a few. The great thing about trust is that it embodies all of these qualities. Live by these characteristics, and you will build trust -- don’t and lose it.

Given the nature of trust, what can you do to accelerate the building of it? Beyond the exercises mentioned in the team culture article, you can start by being very clear about the importance of trust and what it means. I like to hold a brainstorming session on trust with the team. I wouldn’t do this with just one new member, but I will do it again if the team has turned over a good portion of its personnel since I last held one.

We conduct the session in three parts:

  1. What is trust?

  2. What does it look like when we have it?

  3. How do we get it?

I like to write the responses down and post them where they are visible. Visibility is trickier in a hybrid or remote working environment. If nothing else, the document can be a periodic reminder of the “what, why, and how” of trust.

You can also encourage new team members to provide feedback to others whenever trust is gained or lost by an action. Trust is like a bank account. If you are on the left end of the spectrum above, a person’s account starts with a zero balance. Whether a person is depositing or withdrawing from their trust account with you, it’s valuable to let them know. If they made a withdrawal, share your feelings and reasoning with them. The conversation allows them to learn from the experience and work towards generating more deposits.

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