In today’s teams, trust is often seen as a critical success factor to ensure effective collaboration. Indeed, multiple studies have proved positive relationships between team trust and team effectiveness, including the research by University of Münster’s Guido Hertel and Technische Universität Dortmund’s Joachim Hüffmeier.
Furthermore, these studies confirm that the relationship between team trust and team performance is stronger in virtual teams as compared to face-to-face teams. It is an important finding for modern distributed teams – leaders must pay strong attention to cultivating trust in their organizations.
Trust is defined in many ways, for example:
(1) “Confident reliance on someone when you are in a position of vulnerability” (HBR article)
(2) “A kind of reliance on other people based on a belief that the other person will do the right thing for the right reasons” (Kellogg School of Management article)
But do we know enough about trust in teams? What does it mean to trust a team member or be a trustworthy team member? In their research, Guido Hertel and Joachim Hüffmeier provide a comprehensive and actionable model of trust. It lists and categorizes perceived trustworthiness signals in teams, and identifies concrete risk-taking behaviors resulting from team trust:
Research shows that this model applies both to face-to-face and virtual teams. However in virtual team situations, the availability factor is critical for trust emergence significantly more than in face-to-face team situations.
What are the implications for teams?
There is a scientifically-proven checklist of skills and behaviors that create trust in teams. Leaders should learn and apply these practices. This is especially important for virtual teams.