How do you build trust on your team?

Too many teams go offsite and compel team members to get vulnerable through self-disclosure (e.g., tell us your most embarrassing moment, the most significant childhood experience) or worse, through taking physical risks together – forced trust falls.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve facilitated these sessions myself and hoped that they would create deeper compassion and empathy. They rarely do and actually can feel quite manipulative.

I’ve come to understand that trust is earned over time, through consistency, competency and character. In fact, a study of work teams by Paul Schindler, found that the most important contributors to interpersonal trust were: integrity, competence, loyalty, consistency, and openness – in that order of importance.

Being open helps build trust, but not unless the team member has earned a reputation for doing the right thing, repeatedly over time, with excellence and in support of a mutual relationship. And self-disclosure has to be appropriate to the level of the relationship. If we don’t have a trusting relationship, then why would I choose to share intimate information?

So before you try to develop trust on your team using one-shot vulnerability exercises, consider how you create a culture that reinforces character, competence and consistency.