The Foundation of Effective Teamwork: Trust and Respect

BY Greg Gregory
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When I was in second grade, my father frequently told me, “You can’t put the roof on a house until the foundation is complete.” I did not understand what he meant, until I was older. Once I understood the analogy of the “foundation,” his words made sense. For a workplace team, a strong foundation is incredibly important.

Effective teamwork must include five interpersonal elements that mesh together to efficiently reach their goals. However, trust and respect must make up the foundation of a team in the workplace, or no amount of talent or skill will make a difference in its performance.

Elements of Teamwork

The elements of effective teamwork:

  • Possesses harmonizing skills
  • Has conflict around ideas to maximize dialogue
  • Is committed to a unified mission
  • Pursues performance objectives via an agreed-​upon course
  • Holds each member accountable

All of these, in addition to each member’s unique skill contribution, be it a talent for crunching numbers, or deep research, or any specific skill that your industry needs, whether it is programming, IT help desk support, or accounting, help make a workplace team better at meeting their objectives.

I frequently discuss how workplace teams can implement and develop these elements in my lectures and in my writing. These are strong and important components for an effective team. The foundations on which to build these elements are trust and respect.

If trust and respect are not in place, the team will not be able to implement all of these interpersonal elements, limiting their effectiveness.

How to Develop Trust

How can team members develop trust? First and foremost, know and trust in each other’s skill. Each team member has to know his or her role AND understand how he or she fits within the team. What must you do in order for others to do their jobs well? What do others need to do so that you can do your job well?

You have to trust that other team members will do what they need to do in order to meet the team objectives. This is not something that you, an individual team member, has control over. The only thing that you have control over is making sure you do your job so that the other people on the team know they can count on you. This is the first step in developing trust, and the first step in building respect for your team members’ abilities and dedication to the goals of the team.

When you trust the rest of the workplace team and they place their trust in you, this opens the door to personal conversations that can build on that developing trust and respect. With that strong foundation, putting the five elements of an effective team into place becomes much easier.