Building Trust in Teams

Trust is probably the most fundamental element of an effective team.  In fact without it, teamwork is all but impossible.  Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni explains that trust is not the ability of team members to predict one another’s behaviors because they’ve known each other for a long time. Rather regarding teams, trust is all about vulnerability. Team members who trust one another learn to be comfortable being open, even exposed, to one another. Vulnerability-based trust is predicated on the simple idea that people who aren’t afraid to admit the truth about themselves are not going to engage in political behavior that wastes everyone’s time and energy and makes the accomplishment of team goals unlikely.Lencioni offers the following characteristics of team members without trust and members of trusting teams.

Team members without trust

  • Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another
  • Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others
  • Fail to recognize and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • Hold grudges
  • Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together

Trusting Team Members

  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes
  • Ask for help
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at negative conclusions
  • Appreciate and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • Offer and accept apologies without hesitation
  • Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group
The costs of lacking trust are great. Teams that lack trust waste inordinate amounts of time and energy managing their behaviors and interactions within the group, They tend to dread team meetings, and are reluctant to take risks in asking for or offering assistance to others. As a result, morale on distrusting teams is usually quite low, and unwanted turnover is high.How does a team go about building trust? Vulnerability-based trust requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility, and an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of team members. One of the most effective tools to build trust is to use a behavioral profile that allows team members to accurately and openly assess their strengths and weaknesses. It drastically increases the likelihood that team members will admit their strengths and weaknesses to one another and gives them a common vocabulary for describing their differences and similarities.

The Leading From Your Strengths profile can do just that. The core principles of Leading From Your Strengths are understanding your own strengths, recognizing and respecting the strengths of others, and blending the differences.  After taking the profile and reading the report, team members can engage in purposeful interactions that will build their vulnerability and trust with one another. This will become the foundation for a more effective team.

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