Five Ways To Build and Maintain Trust in a Team

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Article By  Smita Venkataraman, Vice President – HR and Corporate Communications, AGS Health

“Talent wins games. But teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan

Throughout my two-decade career, I have been a firm believer in the power of what great teams can accomplish together. And therefore how a leader brings together a winning team that is fueled by mutual trust is definitely the real litmus test of her/his leadership.

There are many theories that are popular in the world of management that talk of various stages of teams, the anatomy of great teams and building sustained mutual trust to keep the team’s synergies together. In my direct experience, great teams reflect a high octane energy, tremendous perseverance, believe in a larger-than-life vision and are motivated intrinsically to achieve it.

This magic happens only when each team member genuinely respects the talent of every other team member, views oneself as a vital member of a larger high performing unit, respects differences and leverages the power of innovation that stems from rich, diverse views.

To build and maintain such mutual trust within a team, the following five principles have profound impact, which can be remembered as the acronym T.R.U.S.T.


  • The leader should invest quality time in ensuring each member of the team is screened not just for domain expertise but also cultural fitment to ensure he/she fits in well with the micro-culture and core values of the team.
  • The leader should keenly observe through the right blend of critical incident method as well as demonstrated psychometric and other useful diagnostic tools, the strengths that each team member brings to the table and leverage it.
  • The leader should periodically share and celebrate the strengths, achievements and talent of each team member within the team to ensure a healthy awareness of how each colleague contributes to the bigger picture. This induces respect and mutual admiration for each other’s craft.


  • Every team goes through four phases in team formation – forming, storming, norming and performing. The storming stage (typically marked by disagreements, conflicts and misunderstandings) is a healthy stage – if addressed constructively, it leads to high impact introspection, self-development and discovery among team members of each other’s strengths, motivators and stressors – naturally leading to mutual agreement on intra-team roles, norms and rules for the team’s effective functioning.
  • Therefore, while staying empathetic to the emotions round a conflict, it is very important for the leader to stay unbiased, pragmatic and objective while helping team members address interpersonal issues. The leader must never allow conflicts to fester or leave them unaddressed, assuming they will resolve by themselves.
  • This is done best by directly involving the relevant team members caught in the conflict, attentively listening to both sides of the story before arriving at the appropriate solution, discouraging any gossip tendencies (either within the team or constant complaining about others to the leader with no intent to resolve), actively mentoring team members to focus on the issue at hand instead of the personality (which makes it judgmental and personal) and sharing tips on how to effectively resolve conflicts directly with grace.


  •  The leader should actively create opportunities of unity through taskforce projects, team based assignments, fun contests and SWAT teams for team members to get to know each other socially and also to contribute their respective skills and knowledge to a great common goal.
  • Collaboration, peer learning, and exchange of best practices should be consistently recognized and celebrated with rewards to embed unity and team spirit.
  • Team members should be paired or composed in each taskforce differently over a period of time to maximize skills exposure and social connect with each other, instead of staying within comfort zones which can create polarization or coteries.


In any team, the sheer collective knowledge, if harnessed, can create outstanding business results both at an individual level as well as at the team / department / Company level.

The leader should actively create platforms to simplify domain and skills enabling others to learn from each other and where team members can share their knowledge. Examples of such platforms could include:

  • Weekly or Monthly Learning Hour (e.g. Fridays or Mondays) where all team members get together face to face or virtually using VC and WebEx to discuss and brainstorm on a key area.
  • Online Team Groups such as Whatsapp groups where research materials and best practices are shared by all team members with each other.
  • Social Team Offsites where team members set aside some time to reflect and celebrate each other’s success and the team’s achievements through the year.


I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”                       

     – Mary Angelou

 To sustain mutual trust, a culture of appreciation and mutual recognition is vital – just like sunshine to a blossoming tree. Some examples are:

  • Spot Rewards that team members can hand to each other from a goody bag funded by the team’s annual reward budget – criteria could be ‘helping hand’, ‘peer mentor’, ‘crisis champion’, etc.
  • Thank You Wall (physical or virtual, on the intranet) where team members can post notes as part of thanksgiving to each other for support and assistance.
  • Awards for the best taskforce through the year (care should be taken to create enough taskforces and team assignments/fun contests/challenges so that all members get a chance to socialize and work with each other).

In summary, the above principles can go a long way in creating a winning team culture based on genuine mutual trust.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the writer are purely personal and may not reflect those of this organisation.