Trust is the backbone of a healthy relationship. It is also the backbone of a successful work team. At a workshop this past week, several managers said the same thing to me—trust is the most necessary component for a team to be productive.

This idea has actually been around for fifty years. In 1965, psychologist Bruce Tuckman introduced the team development model called “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing” which describes the stages that transform a group of strangers into a united group with commons goals.

In the forming stage, the team members and leader are getting to know one another, learning how they work, becoming aware of needs, and how to motivate. Trust is being built.

In the storming stage, trust is threatened and some conflict may arise between team members. This may lead to some innovative outcomes but also can lead to collusion, negativity and fights. Some may even choose to leave the team. This is where a leader learns to reconcile differences.

In the norming stage, the team and its leader have been through the storm and are now figuring out how to rebuild and function in a trustful environment. People start to resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues’ strengths, and respect the leader’s authority.

In the performing stage, trust has become the norm. Hard work prevails and leads to achievement of the team’s goals. Yet, it is important that the team leader and its members make an effort to continue to cultivate trust and check in to make sure it is still strong.

Here are seven ways a manager can build trust in a team.

Be consistent in your behavior. Don’t act one way with customers and another way with your team. Have one face.

Hold your commitment. Be sure that you do what you say. If you can’t or are unsure, say so. Tell your team that you are “not sure if this is going to work, but my intention is that it is going to.”

Always respond to email. Not responding to email is one of the biggest trust breakers. You can set a precedent for how long. Typically, within one business day is acceptable.

Care about the people on your team. Find out what is going on at home. Ask what they are feeling emotionally, physically, and mentally. See your employee as a whole person, not just a team member that brings results.

Be congruent with your values. If you pronounce values, e.g. a team brand statement that emphasizes integrity, be sure that you uphold that value to the nth degree. Sometimes we spout things and don’t know how to uphold them. If you don’t know how, don’t spout them.

Don’t shy away from conflict. When someone has a problem and comes to you, dig into it. Use your coaching skills to uncover the issue and brainstorm a solution. Be willing to sit on the same side of the table with them.

Get in person or on the phone. When communication is going awry and feelings are getting hurt, don’t keep sending emails. Connect with people directly. Hearing a voice can repair, save, and heal most situations.

While trust is an extremely powerful component of a successful team, it can easily be broken. Always work to make sure it is there and still strong. Otherwise, your team will never live up to its potential.

Recommended Posts