5 Signs Of A High-Trust Team

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Here at Vanderbloemen, we work with a lot of teams. Not just our own team, but the church staffs and/or search teams of all our clients. Many of our consultants can walk into a room and quickly identify a healthy or unhealthy team within the first few minutes of meeting them. What takes a bit longer to identify are what I call “high-trust teams,” or teams that exemplify trust at the highest level.

Working in a high-trust environment isn’t necessarily easy, but it can create incredible results for your church or organization long-term. Here are five characteristics that reveal a high-trust team.

1. They give feedback regularly.

We’re big fans of regular staff reviews, but this kind of trust goes well beyond a scheduled review. In a high-trust environment, if there’s an issue or conflict, it’s addressed immediately. There’s no stewing or waiting to schedule a meeting. They give one another regular, honest feedback.

This approach does not include public criticism, and it curtails gossip or overanalyzed feelings. It’s very important to take care when addressing issues with a co-worker, but doing it quickly and in love will allow for growth and trust in the long run. 

2. Failure is an option.

We recently partnered with a church for some staff consulting, and during the visit, the Discipleship Pastor told me, “I have so many new ideas to make this ministry better, but our Senior Pastor hates when things fail.” Well, who doesn’t hate failure? The point isn’t to love failing, it’s to be ok with that possibility and still take leaps of faith.

Think of all your team could accomplish if they weren’t afraid of failure or of disappointing you. As someone that has worked in both kinds of staff environments, I can tell you firsthand that I am much more creative and productive when I know failure is allowed.

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3. They laugh together often.

If you’re on a team that never shares a chuckle with each other, find a new place to serve. Most teams would say that they laugh together; but how much, and how often? There’s so much to be said about the trust that's established between two humans when they share laughter. 

Sharing a laugh goes well beyond a good joke. Laughter helps soften awkward and embarrassing moments. Laughter helps teams move past conflict, arguments, and especially those tiny disagreements that build up over time. Laughter doesn’t cover a multitude of sins (that’s love) but it sure does help bring a team together and through messy times.

4. They don't micromanage.

High-trust teams share both power and credit. They delegate and then trust their team members to do their job well. The leaders trust their team members and don't micromanage them.

5. They can say no to each other.

This is one of my favorite characteristics of a high-trust team. They’re not afraid to say “no” to one another. The tendency to say "yes" to every new project or task is often higher in a close-knit team. But few things erode trust more than when someone can't deliver on their “yes.”

High-trust teams know that it’s ok to say, “I don’t have the bandwidth to do that well right now,” or “I’ll need some support if I say yes to this.” There’s freedom in this healthy environment for honesty, which allows for realistic expectations and better results down the line.

A strong team is about so much more than just getting along. It’s about being on mission together. It’s a oneness towards accomplishing the goals before you and, in the end, further the vision of your ministry. High-trust teams are a rare find, but not impossible to build from the ground up. Take some time this year to examine your team and how much trust you share.

What are some other signs of high-trust teams?

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