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Trust and Your Team: Gauging the Level of Team Trust

Welcome to my second blog in a series on trust in organizations. For those of you who missed my first trust blog, I talked about the importance of trust and the current state of affairs in organizations as well as our political system when it comes to mistrust. I provided three different views or definitions of trust. Now I want to turn your attention to the subject of trust and your team. I will suggest a straightforward way for you to answer questions like, “How do I know if I have or don’t have trust on my team” and “What could be the impact of the lack of trust on my team?” I promise you that this will have nothing to do with having you and your team participate in the infamous “trust falls” from the 1990’s!

How do you know if you have trust on your team? How do you know if you don't have it?

Often we know intuitively if we have or don’t have trust on our team. But let’s go beyond mere intuition and have you rate your team on trust and integrity. For each of the 10 statements below, rate the degree to which you agree or disagree (Strongly Agree=5 to Strongly Disagree=1) as it relates to your team as a whole?

  1. Overall, team members are honest in their interactions with each other.

  2. Team members typically walk the talk.

  3. Team members try to live each day by their values and beliefs.

  4. Team members consistently make and keep their commitments to one another.

  5. Our team leader knows how to establish and grow trust on our team.

  6. As a team, we consistently get results in ways that inspire trust.

  7. There is transparency in communication on this team.

  8. There is very little “game playing” that goes on among team members.

  9. Members of this team feel like they are treated fairly.

  10. There is consistency in the words and actions of the team leader.

Answers to these questions will give you a preliminary assessment of the “trust culture” on your team. Where did your team average a score of 4 or less? Consider using these questions to engage your team in a discussion about how you can improve. If your team is uncomfortable talking about these questions, that might be worth discussing too!

What is the impact of a lack of trust on your team?

The consequences of lack of trust occur at all levels of the organization. They can start at the relationship level between two people on your team who work together and work right on up to the whole team, and eventually can permeate the entire culture of the organization. There isn't enough room here to list all of the consequences, but from my work with teams and organizations where there is low trust, I hear the following quite frequently:

  • There is a lot of blaming and finger-pointing

  • There is a low level of accountability

  • People withhold information

  • Mistakes are covered up

  • People feel like they are treated unfairly

  • Facts get distorted

  • People spin the truth to their advantage

  • People experience a great deal of work stress

What have you seen that you would add to this list? Recent research has found that when there is a lack of trust, particularly a lack of trust of leaders, employees are much more likely to seriously consider leaving the organization. And when it gets to that point, it begins to have serious financial consequences, not to mention employee morale consequences.

What is your role as a leader in creating a creating a climate and culture of trust on your team?

For some organizations, lack of trust has led to the ultimate downfall of the organization. For others, it has caused employees to leave the company in droves. The good news is that trust in your organization and trust in you as a leader is something you can do something about--it is within your circle of influence. And that's what I want to talk about it my next blogs: what can you as a leader do with your team and your organization to create a high trust culture?

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