Collaboration Takes 6 Levels of Trust

Collaboration Takes 6 Levels of Trust

When I speak on Collaborative Leadership, I talk about trust having these six distinct levels:

1. Trust in Yourself and in the Value of your Contribution

Human beings are a “learning/teaching species.” We take pride in the specific knowledge we’ve accumulated, we enjoy adding to our expertise, and we get a psychological lift from communicating our knowledge to others. But to be a vital contributor, you must believe that your opinions and insights matter, and that your knowledge and experience are valuable to someone else. Unless you trust the innate wisdom and creativity of your own ideas, there is little impetus to offer them to the group. 

2. Trust between Team Members

Well-placed trust grows out of experience and interaction – usually extended over time. In fact, research suggests that simply seeing someone repeatedly and therefore making them more familiar (the “mere exposure effect”), increases our liking and trust of that person. When you allow time for team members to build personal relationships at the beginning of a project, the increased level of trust will pay off later on in greater collaboration and productivity.

3. Trust in the Team’s Leader

Regardless of the overall corporate culture, as a team leader you can create a micro-culture of trust. You do this by creating an environment of psychological safety, by emphasizing team cohesiveness while encouraging the cordial and constructive conflict of ideas, by setting clear expectations for outcomes and clarifying individual roles, by helping all members recognize what each brings to the team, by celebrating group successes and analyzing the lessons in setbacks, and by sharing credit, reward, and recognition with your entire team.

4. Trust in the Importance of the Project

People are not likely to care about collaborating on projects they feel are unworthy of their contribution (a derisive term for this kind of project is WOMBAT — Waste Of Money, Brains And Time). Conversely, human beings willingly share information when working on a project they believe has real meaning and importance. This is why it is so crucial for you to clearly link your team’s objectives with the organization’s crucial business goals.

5. Leadership’s Trust in Employees

As important as it is for team members to trust you as their leader, it may be even more important for the team to know that you trust them. In a very real way, a leader’s expectations are a key factor in determining how a team behaves. Two key questions for all leaders: 1) Do you expect your team members to be trustworthy? 2) Do they know that you trust them?  

6. Trust in the Collective Genius

Human beings thrive in collaborative relationships. Given the right context, we can do great things together. There is a phenomenal sense of accomplishment in achieving as a group what we could not have been achieved alone. But to turn this collective potential into a reality, everyone on the team must understand and deeply trust that none of us is smarter than all of us.

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  • Connor Wilkinson

    One of the leading factors that contribute to the success of any business is whether or not its employees are able to perform together as a united team.

  • Steven Strauss

    I think it's important to encourage creativity in the office to keep the staff motivated

  • Phil Dobson

    Collaborating makes employees more responsible and mature, which goes a long way in raising their motivation levels, especially when teams work distantly.

  • Antony Shadow

    Most companies use cloud-based programs to share files and communicate. This practice has become a commonplace to increase collaboration between all members.

  • Raymond Payette

    All employees should work towards the achievement of a common goal with a strong sense of purpose.

  • Jamie Grey

    Trust is very difficult to achieve, it takes time for some businesses to provide equal opportunities to participate and communicate ideas.

  • Thomas Williams

    Thanks for the tips, much appreciated

  • Scott B

    I have learned a lot by reading your post, thank you!!

  • Lloyd Kraft

    Collaboration is mutually beneficial for making improvements and enhancements.

  • Tyler Durden

    Good read !!!

  • Rachel H

    Useful stuff, thanks for sharing.

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Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Leadership Expert

Carol is an international keynote speaker at conferences, business organizations, government agencies, and universities. She addresses a variety of leadership issues, but specializes in helping leaders build their impact and influence skills for fostering collaboration, building trust, and projecting that illusive quality called "leadership presence." She is the author of "STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence." and the creator of LinkedIn Learning's video course, "Body Language for Leaders." Carol completed her doctorate in the United States. She can be reached at

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