How to Build Trust Outside of Your Retrospectives

Published January 15, 2020 by Retrium Team

Trust is important — trust us.

In everyday life, we trust complete strangers to hold up their end of the deal, such as...

✈️ Pilots — to get us safely from point A to point B.

💸 Bank personnel — to not steal our financial information.

🏠 Construction companies — to build sturdy homes for our families.

When someone in one of these areas fails to communicate or perform in a trustworthy way, things (literally) crumble. It comes as no surprise that when trust within a team plummets — projects, deadlines, and communication tend to fall apart as well.

Teams of all types are, unfortunately, yet inevitably affected by times of failure, conflict, or political happenings that may result in increased distrust between not only managers and the team, but also between the team members themselves.

On the same spectrum of good versus evil, the presence of trust within a workplace, of course, gives the opposite effect that distrust has. High levels of team trust encourages honest communication, resulting in boosted productivity, and more room for innovation. 💡

Great Place to Work has defined “high-trust culture” as a workplace environment where trust-based relationships are highly valued. In this environment, employees believe their leaders are credible, the workplace is fundamentally fair, and they are treated with respect as both people and professionals. After studying relationships between “high-trust culture” and a company's overall success for over 30 years, they’ve concluded:

There is a strong connection between a high-trust culture and business success. In fact, the connection is so strong that it can reasonably be argued that strategy-minded leaders, who care deeply about the financial wellbeing of their business, should make building a high-trust culture a top priority.”

The Reciprocal Relationship Between Trust And A Successful Retrospective

Teams who lack trust also often experience sugar-coated feedback, minimal improvement, and a lack of psychological safety within their bi-weekly retrospectives. However, hosting regular and well facilitated retrospectives could be the first step in fixing this problem.

Trust affects retrospectives, but retrospectives also affect trust. While high levels of trust can improve the outcome of a retrospective, the same can be applied in reverse — a well facilitated retrospective resulting in tough, yet honest conversations can often bring people closer together. When teams have the best of both worlds — high levels of trust, and well facilitated, successful retrospectives, that’s where the true magic happens.

If you’re finding that your retrospectives aren’t resulting in the heaping amount of honest feedback and improvement you were hoping for, it may be time to assess and improve the level of trust among the team. Take a dive into exploring how the following tips can improve the level of trust among your team members.

Put the “Us” in “Trust”

Since no two workplaces are exactly the same, the way in which a leader builds trust varies from team to team. There are, however, a few tactics that will help ensure a comfortable, trust-building environment, no matter the workplace style.

The Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness knows a thing or two about how to build trust in the workplace, including:

  • Lead by example - Demonstrate you trust your colleagues, yourself, and those in positions above you, constantly showing employees how useful trust is.
  • Communicate openly - Create an honest atmosphere from the beginning, providing a safe space for employees to freely voice their opinions and problems.
  • Avoid playing the blame game - Finger pointing creates a toxic team environment. This bad habit prevents employees from wanting to share new ideas for fear of ridicule upon making a mistake.

Teams, both in-person and distributed, are likely to benefit from leaders who take into account the above trust-building tips. In order to ensure trust among the entire team, you might want to go a step further.

Team-Building Tips For In-Person Teams

  • Company Outings: A recent article by Forbes shares the memory of a day out of the office, taking top-performing franchise partners to NASCAR racing. It was a day complete with excitement, feeling appreciated, and team bonding, leaving each team member feeling more connected to their colleagues.
  • Team Branding: Karen Leland, President of Sterling Marketing Group shares her secret to team bonding success: Team Branding. Creating a specific and separate brand for a team creates direction, a clearly defined code of conduct, and a deeper commitment to projects and the team as a whole. As the team evolves, there is always room for rebranding.
  • Conference Room Potluck Party: Take a note from The Office employees at Dunder Mifflin and throw a good old fashioned party in the conference room. Even a short break from work gives employees something to all look forward to together — and what better reason is there other than food? Encouraging employees to bring in a favorite dish gives teammates a chance to share recipes and go further than the normal water-cooler small talk.
  • Celebrate Team Success: Chris Myers of BodeTree knows that as a leader, celebrating the work that the team completes each week is important and useful. To do this, he celebrates the success of his team, no matter how big or small the win.

Team-Building Tips For Distributed Teams

  • Remote Workforce Leader: Mark Strassman, SVP of GM, suggests defining a “remote workforce leader” to acknowledge the remote culture and create virtual team bonding events and ensure collaboration.
  • Virtual Water-Cooler: Virtual teams may find that creating a specific place via social platforms for non-work communication helps to create relationships based on commonalities that aren’t actually work-related. This virtual water-cooler encourages remote employees to bond with one another, even if they may never physically meet.
  • Virtual Game Time: Ice breaker games in a digital format that are easy to set up and fun to play are sure to bring team members together. An example is Drawasaurus, a virtual drawing game, similar to Pictionary where one player draws something and other players guess what is being drawn. Private, password-protected “rooms” can be created so the team can play only against one another.
  • Office Fitness Challenges: Team members cheering one another on to achieve their personal fitness goals while also competing against one another for a potential prize? Now that’s a team-building exercise. This can be anything from a 30-day yoga challenge to a “miles” challenge in which team members try to run or walk the most miles over a period of time. With a number of mobile exercise apps for office challenges to help keep track and compare stats, there is sure to be the perfect challenge for every team.

Better Together

It’s clear that trust is key to a successful retrospective, and more importantly: a successful workplace. Trust holds the power to affect everything from morale to communication and every interaction in between. It is up to all of us as leaders to create an environment for trust and unity to grow and thrive, providing employees with a sense of purpose and psychological safety.

While taking into consideration that building trust doesn’t happen overnight and there are no shortcuts, the outcome of investing time in this area is monumental — a high-performing team in a strong workplace with a solid culture. Worth it.

Next Up: Discover How Groupthink Is Plaguing Team Retrospectives And How You Can Prevent It