How To Build A High Performing Team

Trust is at the foundation of all high-performing teams.  All other essential behaviours are not sustainable without it.

That sounds obvious doesn’t it, is that anything new?

Yes, because most of us think of trust as predictive trust.

(Meaning that we think we can predict one another’s behaviours. For example, any two people that have known each other for a long time can probably predict how each other will respond in a particular situation. As such, they can rely on them to get a job done and predict the quality of that work.)

That is predictive-based trust and it’s not what I’m referring to when it comes to a high-performing team. In the context of a cohesive team, I’m talking about vulnerability-based trust, which is:

‘A willingness to be completely vulnerable with one another – to let down our guard, admit our flaws, and ask for help.’

Vulnerability Based Trust

This essential behaviour can only exist if there is confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good. It also lets them know that there is no reason to be protective or careful around their teammates.

Of course, vulnerability is not always commonplace in a workplace. Take a moment right now to think about a time when you lacked trust in a teammate or your team as a whole. How did this affect your work behaviour?

For instance, you might have avoided asking for help from a colleague for fear it would be counted against you. You might have even worked around someone rather than with them if you worried about their motives or intentions.

This lack of vulnerability-based trust can mean that team members end up wasting time and energy concealing their mistakes and weaknesses. This can extend to hesitating to seek out help or assuming the worst about their teammates’ intentions.

But when we show vulnerability it creates a dynamic in a team that is just invaluable. We will all come to it in different ways because we all have different attributes that make it easier or harder for us to trust.


3 top tips for high-performing teams to build vulnerability-based trust:


Identify what might be holding you back

From being vulnerable and trusting others. Fear of not wanting to be a burden or looking incompetent might stop you from asking for help. A fear of disapproval might prevent you from sharing a weakness or a mistake. Being aware of some of these fears can make it easier to start to overcome them.

Readily apologise for mistakes

This doesn’t undermine your competence or diminish your value on the team but can instead humanise you to your colleagues. Also, if you take the lead and open up about mistakes, you encourage others to do the same, which can get the team focused on moving forward.

Spend a little time trying to genuinely connect with teammates

Do it on a regular basis to find out how they’re doing. Sometimes we can get so caught up in making progress on a project we’re working on that we lose touch with teammates who are not immediately involved. This can leave people feeling a bit overlooked, which can ultimately erode trust.

Building trust won’t happen overnight, it requires you to be proactive in getting to know your teammates and building an in-depth understanding of their unique attributes.

It requires you to regularly look for opportunities to be vulnerable, open and honest in conversations with colleagues. This isn’t easy but if everyone is committed to getting there, it will make all the difference to building trust in your team.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help you build a high performing team please get in touch, we’d love to chat.

Trust is the foundation of any high performing team

Published: Saturday 25 June 2022
Written by: Anna Hemmings, MBE, OLY.