As I work with ministry teams, I often find people talking about growing their teams by bringing more people on board without realizing the potential they have in growing the existing team them have. Without facing issues of team unity, bringing additional people on board will only spread to more people. In the excitement of growth, the issues might be temporarily masked, but when trust isn’t intentionally built, relationships deteriorate.
If you make promises you can’t keep, you erode trust. That’s not to say you are always going to be able to fulfill every commitment you make, but when you can’t do something you said you’d do, you need to reach out and ask for help. That means, if someone on your team respectfully reaches out for help, you need to refrain from (often behind-the-back) chastisements of “Why can’t she just do what she said she’d do? What if we all dropped the ball?” Reaching out for help is not dropping the ball. When you say you can get something done, get it done…and involving additional people can actually be beneficial, because more people get to share ownership. Cultivate a team that trusts each other enough to be able to fully rely on each other to get it all done…together.
If you don’t give recognition and commendation, you erode trust. It’s easy to keep pushing forward to continue working on the next thing. Take a breath and savor what someone’s done. Show appreciation. A word of encouragement goes a long way. Chronic lack of appreciation goes a long way, too, but it’s not the direction healthy teams grow. A smile, a nod, and a simple “thank you” invites people to take a breath of affirmation, encouraging them to take the next steps with renewed purpose. Recognition also comes in the form of acknowledging others’ ideas. It doesn’t mean accepting every single idea, but building trust certainly involves respecting the person who shares ideas. When the idea is tossed aside with a smirk, the person who shared is less likely to share in the future. People also don’t feel valued when all ideas are included without discernment of what fits and what doesn’t. After all, if all ideas are valued the same, there really is no value to them.
If you aren’t trustworthy, you erode trust. It’s not just what you say but also what you do. Passive-aggressiveness erodes relationships. If something is wrong but you’re unwilling to face it, the anger, frustration, and irritation is felt under the table. Team members know something is going on but may feel pressure not to bring up the elephant in the room. Many people believe they are being honest with everyone when they say nothing is wrong, because they’re not being honest with themselves. They believe they’re being transparent, because they won’t admit what’s wrong even to themselves. In the process, they can make it seem as if the very thing that they believe is wrong with others is actually what is stirring up within themselves. Even though the anger and frustration they seem to feel for others may not actually be related to the people they seem to target, it feels as if it is, and it can quickly damage the health of a team.
Building trust takes time and effort.
Many want to assume it’s a default setting, but it’s not. Be sacrificial and build–or rebuild–trust. We’re called to do life with others, and that requires self-sacrifice, difficult conversations, and uncomfortable confrontation at times. Focus on God. You can trust him. His way never involves deception of any kind. Let’s strive to fully reflect him as we serve and work alongside others.