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We believe organisations can significantly enhance their leadership effectiveness through addressing their people at their strengths, through developing relationships of trust, and through building a coaching culture.

Trust in teams is not being nice

Let's suppose that you are a well-meaning, hard working, very capable leader of a team, and things have happened within your team and trust is not there. These things maybe your own fault or not. It doesn't matter. What matters is what you are doing about it. Are you pretending it's not happening and continue business as usual, are you even commissioning a team building event during which people will "get to know each other better" and somehow... trust will get back together? or are you addressing this seriously?

And seriously, although long-suspected, now there is hard data indicating that high-trust teams perform better than the rest. Check out the latest Great Place studies. "30 years of research, in over 40 countries around the world, has shown us time and again that investing in a high-trust workplace culture yields distinct, tangible business benefits. Our studies of the 100 Best Companies show that great workplaces enjoy significantly lower turnover and better financial performance than industry peers.

Read more: Benefits of Great Workplace Culture

Trust is an important foundation for empowerment for all types of relationships, from parent-children, teacher-student, husband-wife, leader-team. In every team, each member is testing the waters to find out how to play within the team, what is allowed and what is not, what are the rules of the game.

When trust is absent, people feel a lack of “protection” to express their view. Therefore they shut down, keep up defenses and only participate partially, focusing on telling their boss what they think they want to hear versus what their true opinion is, playing along the “Naked king” story.

They also lack “permission” to venture out and create anything of real value. In order to innovate, one has to step out onto thinner ice, going into the unknown with an explorer’s curiosity and courage.

So how could that change? As in all relationships, change can go unnoticed for long, and in business this is not good. We need accelerated action! A leader needs to discuss this trust issue openly and address it anew with the team, to be ready to listen to his team, receive feedback and co-create with the team a new "desired future" state for the team's trust level. One of the first great tasks of a leader then, if he wants full participation of those around him, is to create that zone of psychological safety that says, “You can speak up here and you will be listened to respectfully, and you can also think and act creatively.”

Something you can use as a team leader is to address these two simple questions to your team:

Protection: What do you need from me and the other team members in order to feel safe to express yourself?

Permission: What do you need from me and the other team members to feel free to try out new things?

  • On a scale of 1-10 where are we now as a team?
  • What are we already doing well?
  • How can we move one step further?

And a final note, if you really want to build trust in your team, don't just invest your team's time and money on building wooden bridges and jumping ropes, probably it is better to go out for dinner, and chat together instead.

Trust in teams is not about being nice to each other, it is about working more productively together.


Olympia’s expertise is in Solution Focused coaching of productive teams, creating collaborative conversations that lead to action, designing innovative programs for coaching skill's training programs with measurable ROI (Return on Investment) and consulting on building structured mentoring networks within organizations. Olympia has developed and implemented development programs for over 400 client corporations internationally.

You can find information about this program hereFollow Olympia Mitsopoulou on LinkedIn  here.