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Three Warning Signs of Low Team Trust

by The Persimmon Group | September 20, 2019

Trust is an essential component of high-performing teams. When team members trust each other, they communicate openly and honestly, align around a common purpose, take risks and are capable of producing incredible results.

Without trust, a team “isn’t really a team at all,” Keith Krach, Chairman of DocuSign, wrote in Entrepreneur. “You might have some great performers, but if they’re working at cross purposes, you’ll never win. Customers can see if you’re not pulling together, too. When they don’t see trust and teamwork in your organization, you can bet they’re not going to be your customer very long.”

Unfortunately, trust is difficult to build yet easily broken. As a team leader, it is critical to recognize the warning signs of low team trust before it becomes a crisis. Watch for three red flags:

1. The team won’t take risks

Innovation requires taking risks. Because taking risks carries an inherent chance of failure, it requires trust. If nobody on your team is willing to push the envelope, it could be because they don’t trust you or their team to back them up if something goes wrong.

Psychologist Amy Edmondson introduced team psychological safety in the late 1990s as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” In other words, you believe that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.

Nearly two decades later, Google’s massive Project Aristotle study found that psychological safety was the most important factor for a successful team. Psychological safety allows team members to take risks, speak their minds, and stick one’s “neck out without fear of having it cut off — just the types of behavior that lead to market breakthroughs.”

2. Team members don’t communicate

Your team members can’t seem to get aligned. The left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right hand is doing, and the majority of your meetings are spent bringing people up to speed rather than digging into the work. Challenges that should have been easy to predict – supply shortages, manufacturing delays, regulatory issues – seem to take your team by surprise.

The pace of change in today’s marketplace requires teams to be faster and more responsive to be effective. Speed and responsiveness require open communication and candor. Poor communication costs companies millions of dollars per year. However, although it is often treated as the source of team dysfunction, poor communication is sometimes a symptom of low trust.

Low team trust people keep leaving the company

3. People keep leaving

It’s hard to feel satisfied with your job when you don’t trust the people with whom you work. And, thanks to a strong job market and record-low unemployment in the U.S., dissatisfied high-performers tend to leave for greener pastures. Last year, 41.4 million U.S. workers voluntarily left their jobs, an 8.3% increase over 2017 and an 88% increase since 2010.

A recent Gallup study showed that quality relationships were the second-most important factor in determining overall job satisfaction. The more trust employees have in their organization, leaders and team members, the higher their job satisfaction and the less likely they are to voluntarily leave their organization.

Trust Starts at the Top

In summary, trust is essential for high-performing teams. Building trust among team members starts with leadership. If you want to learn more about building trust and leading a high-performing team, enroll today in Persimmon’s upcoming course, Leading Effective Teams.

If you have questions regarding this topic or the class, contact Jill Nickerson.


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