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Removing Barriers – How to Build Trust Within a Team

We have recently been working with an IT company to improve their teamworking. Tom observed that the team was generally a well-functioning team, but one seemingly minor issue led to a very costly error in one of their projects. It turned out that a junior member of the team hadn’t felt able to ask for clarification for something they didn’t understand. The result was that a network hub was built to the wrong specification.

In last month’s blog, we looked at “Why you need to Build Trust in Your Team.” In this month’s blog we will look at a few techniques for building trust and psychological safety within your team.

Mistakes are inevitable 

Taking the above case as an example, there are two ways to approach this mistake. Management could either play the blame game and give the team member a hard time; or they could focus on the process that led to the error and ask “how can we stop this happening again?”

In her article in Harvard Business Review in 2021, communications leader Sonika Bakshi, writes about The Best Lesson a Manager ever Taught Me – “Mistakes are inevitable, and what we learn from them is what determines the course of our success.”

Better teams can openly and confidently admit to and discuss errors using them as a learning tool, not as a disciplinary tool.

Mistakes are inevitable, and what we learn from them is what determines the course of our success.

Sonika Bakshi

How to Encourage Contributions in meetings

Any team includes a diversity of people in it. Not only age, gender and race, but also in confidence and knowledge. There will be people who are outspoken and almost ‘pushy’ in their opinions. Equally there will also be those who are more introverted and less likely to speak up. Although there may be many barriers to people speaking up at meetings, they can be summarised as “I don’t want to look stupid.”

So here are a few things you can try in your meetings to encourage greater participation.


  1. Agenda – sending out an agenda in good time gives people the chance to think about and prepare what they would like to say, instead of speaking off the top of their heads.
  2. Have a chairperson who is not the most senior person – designate a chairperson in advance. Their role is to ensure everyone has a chance to speak – especially the quiet or junior members. They will ensure discussion is focussed and to the point.
  3. Introductions, perhaps with an icebreaker – this is particularly important for a new team make sure everyone has the chance to introduce themselves and saying something about themselves that no-one knows. This approach is invaluable outside the meeting room when teamwork is vital. At John Hopkins Hospital researchers in the theatres observed that when nurses were given the chance to say their names and mention their concerns at the beginning of a case, their sense of participation and responsibility was activated.
  4. Keep it positive – in our meetings we go round the table and everyone begins the meeting with one piece of good news.
  5. Appreciate every contribution – This will reward participation and will ensure people feel safe to contribute at future meetings.
  6. Clarify every decision with an action point, timescale and the person accountable – follow up after the meeting to ensure successful completion.

When people feel it is safe to challenge, admit they don’t understand or to own up to mistakes then you have a truly learning organisation that embraces a growth mindset. Many companies such as Microsoft have made this their number one priority.

If you can see the difference this would make to your team, get in touch.



To find out more about the importance of introducing one another in a team-setting  read Atul Gawande ‘The Checklist Manifesto.’