Thereare many ways a leader can improve the performance of a team. Some of the ways include training, improving working conditions, providing sufficient resources and having a clear team purpose.

However, one thing most leaders overlook is the level of trust within the team.

Having a high level of trust enables teams to become more productive, efficient and effective, which in turn affects the team’s overall performance.

Research shows that teams tend to perform at a higher level when the level of trust within the team is high.

Trust forms the foundation for better and more effective communication and deeper understanding between team members, which would ultimately contribute to more effective and efficient collaboration between members of the team.

Here are five practical tips for leaders to build and maintain a high-trust environment that encourages peak team performance:

Don’t lie

Trust can never be built on a bed of lies. Leaders cannot expect their team members to trust them if they are untruthful, because nothing destroys trust faster than discovering a lie. Even if you have bad news to break to the team, it is always better to tell it as it is.

In many cases, trust is undermined because leaders are not forthcoming with information, particularly if the information impacts team members in a negative way.

Being open and forthcoming with information, be it good news or bad news, helps build trust between the leader and the team members.

Share information 

As a leader, it is important to share as much information as you can with your team.

Don’t wait for team members to probe for more information before sharing it with them. All relevant information should be shared with the entire team, and not with selected team members.

When this is done in a respectful way, it demonstrates to the entire team that you, as the leader, have nothing to hide and it will go a long way in building trust within the team.

Keep your promises

The key is not to make any promises you can’t keep. Conversely, if you make a promise, it is vital that you make good on it.

When you keep your promises, it demonstrates that you are dependable, reliable and trustworthy; and this will help in building and maintaining the trust you have established with your team members.

Eliminate fear

Fear prevents teams from reaching their full potential. Many teams operate within an atmosphere of fear, and this is usually evident in the behaviours of the team members.

For instance, team members avoid speaking up, avoid asking questions, or avoid making comments or suggestions because they fear being ridiculed or reprimanded during team meetings.

Leaders should strive to create a high trust-low fear working environment, because people communicate and perform best when they feel safe and trusted around their leaders.

Encourage communication

Leaders who are blatantly self-serving will be perceived as insincere, selfish and untrustworthy, and once team members see their leader as insincere, they will begin to retreat and withdraw from him.

Team members will be discouraged from sharing information or making comments and suggestions that may be beneficial to the team.

This will then create a vicious cycle of mistrust that will eventually destroy the cohesiveness of the team.

For a team to reach peak performance, the leader needs to create a team environment that is safe by building trusting relationships with each team member.

A high-trust environment will encourage team members to communicate openly, share information and contribute ideas without fear of negative repercussions, and they will be willing to go the extra mile to achieve the team’s objectives.

Article by Steven Lock, high performance strategist of FutureTHINK! Training & Consultancy LLP, which helps organisations reach peak performance through leveraging high performance teams. For more information, visit www.futurethink.com.sg