10 Traits of Teams that Trust

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Distrust feeds gridlock and shuts out brainpower, while trust fosters innovation and generates growth. But how do you move from gridlock to trust?

We’ve all seen bullying or sarcasm keep doubt alive. You only have to check financial market reports to see trust bashed through naysaying or partisan politics.

10 Traits of Teams that Trust

Have you noticed how trusting teams remain difficult to spot at work, yet people crave their presence?

Recent surveys show how lack of trust tops the most prevalent  problems modern workers face. At the same time, trust remains the most desired trait according to most workers.

Trust reducers, include excessive concern for personal gains, mixed messages, responsibility avoidance and passing the buck or dropping the ball.  Distrust comes from  opinions stated without facts, and from blaming others when problems arise,  according to researcher Dr. Paul Bernthal.

What Does Trust Look Like at Work?

Have you noticed that trust flies higher in respect’s radar in your circles? Do trusted people ever question other’s motives? Psychologist, Carl Rogers confronted trust head-on in his best selling book, On Becoming a Person, and concluded that it’s tough to trust when one feels betrayed, annoyed, or skeptical. Interesting! Trust, for Rogers, was less a matter of being rigidly consistent or predictable,  and more a matter of being dependably real.

To trust is to come to shared agreements about realistic expectations, and then to fiercely deliver these. Move on these agreements by starting now and stepping daily in the direction of stated expectations.

We’ve observed with Blaine Lee, author of the Power Principle that: Almost all conflict is the result of violated expectations.

The solution?

Trust transforms backdoor deals and unmet agreements  into rewired realities that:

1. Awaken trust in yourself and others will follow. 

Most people recognize that intrapersonal intelligence helps you make personal choices that others will emulate.

Fewer people know however, that you can raise your personal IQ by simply using it more. It may mean extra kindness to a struggling colleague on one day, or laughing at yourself on another. Genuine care for oneself, often brings out the best in others.

Trust grows by engaging ethical parts of your brain that battle for supremacy at times.

According to  Dr. Antonio Rangel at California Institute of Technology, some people live more by trusting and being trusted while others choose to live as if they prefer perils of distrust. Trust starts with individuals and extends across circles through interactions that add integrity.

How so?

2. Act with others’ interest in mind– and you inspire trust

Respond to confrontations by stepping back and tossing goodwill into words and actions. Brain experts would say you are snipping your brain’s amygdala.

Peers often repeal demands spoken when they expect rage and get respect. Since we rarely know what’s around the corner to trigger distrust, it’s critical to intensify tactics for gaining mutual respect through calm proposals that include others’ wellbeing. This is especially true when peers or leaders let us down.

Expect rifts to heal over time, depending on how much trust plummeted in an exchange. One manager claimed he’d learned how to say nothing, and he couldn’t understand why peers seemed so surly the day after a heated argument at work. His choice to make no immediate response did trump knee-jerk angry or sarcastic retorts.

More importantly though,  people saw over time that he’d snipped his heated amygdala, and that is when your brain kicks in as ally.

You can build new neuron pathways to healing beyond disappointments that follow mistrust.

Trust offers a confident and courageous response to every conflict you face. It opens innovative opportunities to those who tend to respond well, for those who often least expect it

3. Spot trusted opportunities within broken systems – and others tend to  join with like minded willingness.  Ready to risk riding transparency’s surf?

You’ll want to avoid those who toss cynicism or naysaying into the ring though, and align more with those who act openly and honestly. How so?

You’ll often find trust at  cutting edge of innovative initiatives, within people who are well respected by their peers. Have you seen it?

4. Model transparency in ways that convert conflicts into trust-related parts of your brain that win. People trust what they can see, according to Rollin King, founder of Southwest Airlines. who said: We adopt a philosophy that we don’t hide anything, not any of our problems, from the employees.

Trust is developed mentally, through using strategies that respect the dignity of others. How so?  Remain faithful to commitments, and building goodwill among those who disagree.

Your brain comes with trust building equipment designed to cultivate integrity and openness through acting trustworthy.

Similarly you reboot inspiration for others to trust, through modeling its clarity and simplicity.  The human brain’s equipped with mirror neurons so that people mimic  honesty and openness observed in those around you.

Why then do so many organizations rewire daily for distrust and cover-ups?

5. Forgive and let go. Offer mental  olive branches to people who disagree and trust opens collaboration without forcing  views on any one side.

Brains rewired to forgive tend to promote trust through offering strategies for shared interests.  Distrust, on the other hand,  hardwires brains perilously in those who sow doubt.

Retired Yale researcher, Dr. David Adams, built plasticity for trust by creating a highly respected global movement for peace.

To build a culture of peace, through strategies that prevent abuse or violence, is to cultivate trust with each peaceful act done.

That’s how the human brain uses plasticity to build trust among team members.

6. Hone  tools for peace rather than stir revenge, and trust takes root. We’ve all seen how gridlock battles begin to plummet trust. On the other hand, brains come equipped for peacemaking and trust building in several ways. How so?

First, serotonin, a neurotransmitter,  regulates moods and opens your mind for taking advantage of trust opportunities. You can control daily doses of this drug through foods, sleep, and exercise.

No wonder it earned its golden reputation as the brain’s miracle drug. Serotonin adds brainpower to trust when conflicts or stressors strike and you need a response in a flash.

Second, plasticity rewires your brain for trust daily, based on what you do daily to improve your situation peacefully.

Synapses in your brain  determine the extent to which peaceful solutions are transmitted both chemically and electrically.  Increased serotonin can improve trust with others in ways that lead effective peace plans, that replace workplace abuse.

Third, working memory equips your brain to design and execute trust-building practices.   It works opposite to your brain’s basal ganglia or habit storage tanks.   Sadly, we have rewired an entire nation to reduce trust – through war talk, battle scars, anger at others, violent patterns from history, or competitive one-up-ship war games.

Time to build back a caring culture that’s more socially fair? Who wouldn’t trust more where people are advanced and productivity raised?

7. Speak simply and you’ll add intelligent solutions  to replace mental clutter.  Clear ethically driven practices hold trusted dividends for more.

Thanks to sheer power of your brain, you can reconfigure for trust on a daily basis.

Move past broken systems that let you down, lies trust that advantages entire communities. Distrust drives any group into confusion, because of the deceptive mazes for personal gain.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called for straightforwardness, in his words: In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. With simplicity tossed back into the ring, intrapersonal intelligence takes center stage and trust opens another winning act.

So why do so many people miss out on the very trust cultures they crave?

8. Avoid hidden traps of cynicism by building a genuine possibility tone to open segues for all to speak and feel heard.

Queen Rania reminded NPR hosts recently that the world cannot afford to be cynical. To build trust at work is to run from cynics daily.

Cortisol released from and driving a cynic’s brain will drown trust like Niagra Falls crushed a drunk who jumped into its wake.

Cortisol’s potent chemical slams people into stress that can shrink human brains, much less shrivel trust.

Neuron pathways for cynics create disagreeable expressions of doubt, and habitual synapses can reshape moods or jade perspectives into permanent problems over time.

In trust matters,  today’s actions shape tomorrow’s brainpower to build with others. Dendrite brain cells connect doubt to suspicion in the mind of a cynic, a recipe for mental stagnation not seen in the curious.

Practice one trustworthy act of generosity, for instance, and watch chemical and electrical activity reboot you mentally for trust to repeat the same.

9. Propose collaborative possibilities, which not only rights wrongs, but positively impacts the bottom line.   Without question, it takes humility, courage and talent.

You can’t create a high trust culture unless people perform, Craig Weatherup CEO PepsiCo, said. Brainstorm solutions with innovative peers rather than join in with naysayers who toss toxins into the mental mix. Luckily you already have what it takes mentally to shift into trust that helps everything feel confident about their own contributions.

Keep moving your game forward, and your brain hands you all the equipment necessary to win. Your working memory, required for trusted-building  innovations, sits idle and remains mute for cynics.  Those who create trust free up brainpower for designing innovative solutions out of reach to those who spawn mistrust at work.

Focus on facts that build concrete solutions, for instance,  and working memory springs trust into action to solve complex problems out of bounds to the cynical mind.

It’s been called the molecule of happiness, but serotonin is far more than that in any workplace that engages its power. Serotonin is actually a chemical that can add focus and higher problem solving skills to transform any ordinary day.

10. Activate open communication that sparks innovation,  rarely found in tragic traits of a cynic. For instance, looking back at mistakes, the cynic often chills to bitter regrets, while rarely taking advantage of mental equipment tapped by curious minds who build finer futures.

You can literally turn off doubt’s molecular switch and turn on a thirst for trust building that trigger the brain’s circuitry for change and innovation.

Step into any gridlock situation and you’ll spot far more routines, ruts and rituals, than innovative designs can survive. Have you seen it?

Luckily, newly discovered mental equipment offers tools such as new neuron pathways to dynamic innovation.

So while trust’s not possible when ego generates gridlock, it’s also the tonic that keeps teams resilient when others give way to skepticism and blame.

What do you think?

Check Your Trust Resilience – in Conflict Situations

People who navigate workplace stressors well, often feel thwarted in their attempts to move forward at work until those who lack intrapersonal and interpersonal skills seek coaching to  build trust. Navigating any aftermath of conflict creates challenges for most people – yet trust building tools can preclude internal baggage and sustain an atmosphere of reconciliation.

Consider one typical workplace problem, where navigation beyond problems failed, because trust fled.

Martin and Angie shared responsibility for product development. Occasionally they were able to successfully work out a range of concerns that got them low scores on evaluations, such as not getting back to their reports and failing to collaborate where they could save costs. Staff dislike both, but tend to disrespect Martin less when invited to regular weekend parties at his sailing club.

What appeared on the surface to be little more than competitive reactions, grew into counterproductive conduct that lowered trust across two departments. Both were presented with opportunities to build tools that mitigated past friction and coaching uncovered underhanded tactics, such as sarcasm and backstabbing that gave way to  blame from many.

This example of dissension that robbed trust, was at the root of many disputes Martin and Angie faced. Even when problems appear to be resolved, negative feelings prevailed for many when around these workers.

Neither had developed an ability to bounce back after a conflict, so both were leading increased tensions by default. To learn to monitor inner feelings and thoughts, for instance, is to master  tools to handle workplace disputes.

In most workplaces, lack of trust shows up in stress related habits that increase baggage and prevent the kinds of resolution that coaches were able to build with Martin and Angie.

Coaching helped Martin and Angie develop trust tools for mutual respect, get over lingering feelings of resentment and demonstrate more sincere efforts to work together for a common bond. Angie is rarely included in Martin’s weekend galas, but colleagues describe these two as communicating well at work in ways that rebuild trust among staff.

Below are 10 key indicators that will scale your trust building tools.

Build trust measures to lead conflict resolution proficiency

Faced with disagreements, I tend to:



1.Consider ways to communicate better rather then dwell on another’s problem
2. Respond positively and only after I ditch any ill feelings about another person.
3. Risk being vulnerable in order to spot any flaws in personal reactions
4. Build goodwill with those who disagree or differ.
5. Offer collaborative suggestions that will clearly benefit all concerned.
6. Improve the situation by fostering peaceful alternatives and novel solutions.
7. Develop new talents in self and support the same growth in others.
8. Replace cynicism with trustworthy acts of curiosity and purpose.
9. Brainstorm innovative solutions rather than beat up self over frustrations.
10. Encourage open communication rather than regret times you failed.

Determine trust levels.  Count your “True,” checks as marked above:

10 “True” scores – You trust and build trust among others at work.
7-9 “True” scores – You are fairly trusting yet can explore ways to increase trust tools.
4-6 “True” scores – Your trust scales show low ability yet coaching can help build trust.
0-4 “True” scores – You are not trusting, and likely increase skepticism and blame in others.

If your score is 6 or less “True,” you can develop conflict management skills in these weaker areas spotted. Coaching will focus on improved trust building tactics that result in conflict resolution on an ongoing basis.

To avoid building trust related muscles, means weakened communication, unresolved disputes with costly results. These barriers to innovation will diminish you and your workplace, while trust building tools have the opposite effect. Trust strengthens mental muscle for harmony and productivity.

Conflicted situations vary widely,  as does the ability to develop and use trust building tools, since both depend on each person’s capabilities and situations.

It’s  in learning more about our mental and emotional capabilities that we learn to manage conflict, by building trust to obtain a top score in the above proficiency test. Trust building coaching uncovers matters that diminish trust, and foster tools that visibly benefit all concerned.

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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset

6 thoughts on “10 Traits of Teams that Trust

  1. eweber Post author

    Dan, Robyn’s question and your extension plus the brain facts about why both are cutting edge innovation fuel for a new era — is the opening chapter to a book on this topic! Will get back on weekend with suggested outline forward!

    Your intrapersonal intelligence IQ rocks every dendrite brain cell in my head:-)

  2. Dan

    Thanks, Ellen, this is a great place to begin the journey of applied brain-based learning! I’m looking forward to allowing all the free associative connections emerge for my work.

    I want to take a moment to also share my take on Robyn’s great question at the start of this thread. It’s one of those $64,000 questions (if anyone still remembers that game show from the past).

    My own best experience is to work at building a trust-based connection with that person, sometimes best done “off-line,” and out of the stream of conversations of the team. The goal is to listen deeply to that person’s experiences and perspectives, to try to see things from inside their world, then be true to self by sharing and sometimes confronting if the person’s “perilous” behavior is negatively affecting the group. It’s vital to be on that person’s side, helping them succeed not tearing them down or attempting to hurt the person into learning (which does not work). The critical piece is the creation of a relationship that is strong enough to serve openness and real connection, otherwise any messages sent are likely to be deflected. And sometimes this work — the work of building a durable relationship of truth and care — is challenging work indeed, if a person brings mistrust conditioned over the long term and perhaps from family sources to the bargain. That would be the short version anyway! Cheers!

  3. Ellen Weber

    Thanks for stopping by Dan. Rather than read it over a few times, we’ll soon begin to apply it to the work you already do so brilliantly — and that is the best way to tweak it to fit the reality you live and lead!

    It’s in the application, and woven into lived experiences that MITA brain approaches begin to escalate the work we do with wonder found on one’s own brainpower.

    Your own intrapersonal IQ strengths (over at the MIX for instance) show an incredible IQ that is already at the top of the peaks in that area. Cool part about the intelligences is that to use them is to grow and shape them – so they literally increase in size, colors, textures and usability! A fun journey!

  4. eweber Post author

    Wow — that’s the question around which books wrap their wonder, Robyn! Guess I see it at your blog at http://brainbasedbiz.blogspot.com/ and in your leadership most! Take today’s post on engaging conversations!

    Great tone, sparking curiosity, and respecting all – go a long way to building strategies that rewire us all for increased trust. Thanks for do it daily for all you encounter!

  5. Robyn McMaster

    When we are forced to work with people in a team who prefer peril, what is your best antidote to help bring someone around and essentially getting them to tap into their creativity?

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