5 ways teams can build trust though communication

In the final part of our series of blogs by associate leadership consultant Kay Galpin, we look at the 5 ways in which organisations can encourage trust to flourish not just between individuals but on a wider scale between teams and accross companies.

How can teams & organisations build trust?

Teams can have a coherent climate of their own and this is influenced by both leaders and team members. An individual might trust in their team through experiencing safety and mutual respect and an ability to feel able to participate (Anderson and West 1998, Edmondson, 1999). However, trust in a team is fragile and needs to be maintained and developed over time through interactions. A few ways in which the team itself can build trust are as follows:

1.Make mutual praise happen

Zak (2017) describes his research over the last 10 years and suggests recognising and celebrating excellence publicly has the largest effect on trust after a goal has been met, and when it comes from peers. This can also inspire others and can support team learning.

2. Communication

Increased team communication has been found to lead to more information exchange and increased trust (Boies, Fiset and Gill, 2015). Take the first step – share it!


Team behaviours and attitudes that lead to a safe environment are a need for mutual respect, belief in positive intentions, offering to help and being open to experimentation (Edmondson, 1999). Communication between peers can reveal these attitudes and can demonstrate trustworthy behaviour such as benevolence, integrity and competence.

4.Use motivating language

On the wider scale of organisations, communications need to be direction giving: ensure that vision, objectives and goals are clear; empathetic: show that employees are valued and meaning making: use communication to convey the norms and culture of the organisation through stories, emotions and imagery.

Why is it that corporate communication can often mean something more formal and impersonal? Organisations are made up of people – it’s important not to lose that sense of the individual

5.Plan it and take your time

Hackman and Johnson (2013)  remind us that “communication is irreversible and we can never completely un-communicate  (pp9-10). Organisational communication needs to be consistent, credible and backed up by behaviour. In this way it will build trust.

It might be interesting to reflect on communications within your organisation, team or working relationship and understand where trust could be developed further or helped to thrive! There are genuine benefits to both productivity and employee well being. I’ll finish with something that really resonated with me; a sense of purpose and a culture of trust makes the brain produce happiness inducing chemicals and a sense of joy! Now who wouldn’t want more of that? (Zak, 2017).

Kay worked as an HR business partner for 20 years in the charity and private sectors before completing a masters degree in occupational psychology last year. She is currently exploring how telling and disrupting team and individual stories can impact on team factors such as engagement, trust, emotion and identity to support organisational change. She is working as a freelance writer, researcher and consultant.


Anderson, N. R., & West, M. A. (1998). Measuring climate for work group innovation: development and validation of the team climate inventory. Journal of Organizational Behavior: The International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior, 19(3), 235-258.

Boies, K., Fiset, J., & Gill, H. (2015). Communication and trust are key: Unlocking the relationship between leadership and team performance and creativity. The Leadership Quarterly, 26(6), 1080-1094.

Edmondson, A. (1999) Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44 (1999): 350-383.

Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2013). Leadership: A communication perspective. Waveland Press.

Zak, P.L. (2017) The Neuroscience of Trust Harvard Business Review Jan – Feb 2017.