The One Characteristic That All Teams Must Have

By Whit Mitchell

No team can succeed without trust. It’s the driving force that creates an environment of commitment, connection, and respect that ultimately helps a team succeed and go the extra mile. 

Think of building trust like the ingredients in a cake. Just as it takes many different ingredients to create a cake—from flour to eggs to milk—there are a variety of values needed to create a trustworthy relationship. Experiencing these values together creates a deep sense of trust among teams.

Unfortunately, a lifetime of building trust can disappear in a matter of seconds. That’s why it’s crucial to honor the values that strengthen a trustworthy relationship.

Trust carries you up the mountain
Trust is crucial because it helps teams—and companies—perform at a higher level. Employees respect leaders who build trust over the years. And when you build trust within your brand, you will be able to easily find top talent who will bring creative ideas, successful products, high profits, and happy shareholders.

Over my 35 years advising within organizations, I’ve heard the word trust mentioned countless times. In situations where a new person is joining a team and there is a lack of trust, the team members usually say that earning their trust would require the person to listen and to understand their responsibilities. It doesn’t matter how competent that person is; trust has little to do with skillset.

Imagine climbing Mount Everest. When climbers tackle this feat, they are tied together by a rope, with one person in front and one person behind. You rely on your fellow climbers and if you don’t trust them, you will be paralyzed with fear. Even if the person in front of you is a climbing expert, you must trust that he is making the right choices. Trusting your teammates is what gets you up the mountain.

On an executive team, if one person on the team is not trusted, it can create internal chaos, with coworkers complaining to one another behind closed doors. All of this negativity ultimately wasting time—and reducing creativity, performance, and overall success. 

Start building trust today
Trust building starts before a new employee takes his or her first paycheck. To instill trust, start building a relationship during the recruiting process and continue it throughout onboarding; the first six months of an employee’s time with your company are vital to creating trust. Following these key steps creates trust with new hires, leaders, or teams that are rebuilding trust.

  • Hire for fit. Hire a trustworthy candidate who fits well with your company values.
  • Set clear expectations. Leaders need to show transparency and honesty when communicating expectations to new employees. 
  • Open and honest feedback. Give honest feedback to both new and seasoned employees, helping them improve so they don’t make the same mistake twice.
  • Provide resources. Promote success in your new hires by giving them all the training, resources, and instructions they need.
  • Build relationships. New leaders should set up one-on-one meetings with each team member. It is also helpful to have the team take assessments and share the results with one another, to better understand what motivates each employee and how best to communicate.

When I coached rowing at Dartmouth I would regularly run with the basketball and soccer coaches. During those lunchtime running sessions, we had plenty of conversations about team dynamics. I remember one year the soccer coach was considering an amazing recruit, a young man who many universities were hoping to get. While he had an excellent skillset, the coach knew that he wouldn’t be the best fit for his current team, which he considered such a tight-knit group that they were a family. He actually said, “I don’t think he’s a good fit for my family.” He passed on that player, and guess what? His team still won the national championship. He didn’t have the player of the year that year, but since his team had so much trust, they came out on top.

You can have all the expertise in the world, but if you bring in the wrong fit, it changes the entire dynamics of your team. Your company doesn’t need the best player, it needs to create a “family” that can work together and grow in trust for years to come.