team trust

What Does Team Trust Look Like?

In a day and age when organizations are striving to build cohesive, high-performing teams, trust is key. Here's what team trust looks like.

The crux of building a high-performing team requires trust. Without it, you’re left with siloed contributors, while exposing your team to the perils of miscommunication, misalignment, and infighting.

Trust will continue to be a source of competitive advantage for teams that choose to do the deep work of cultivating it.

What is Team Trust?

Trust is perhaps the most buzzworthy, yet least understood component of a team’s culture dynamic. Words like authenticity, honesty, and transparency often come to mind first.

WinShape Teams conceptualizes the richest forms of trust as the bedrock of the world’s highest-performing teams, like Team Avaya.

This kind of trust is the sort forged by team members’ whole-hearted commitment to work toward complete authenticity with themselves and with one another.

It oftentimes means willingly subjecting oneself to enter into intense and uncomfortable experiences alongside fellow teammates.

Cultivating this form of trust requires you to allow others to see you in your most vulnerable settings, while simultaneously serving as a support to others on the team to ensure that fear of failure, guilt, etc. are erased from the team mentality entirely.

It means diligently owning your own role, in addition to responding empathically and decisively in your fellow team members’ time of need.

You are more willing to operate in this way over time, because you know that the person to your left and on your right are fiercely committed to the same mentality as you are.

This is team trust.

team avaya

What Does Team Trust Look Like in Action?

In our documentary, For The Team, Team Avaya exemplifies what team trust looks like.

Teams Without Trust

Chances are you’ve already experienced a team without trust. It is the unfortunate reality where modern-day media promotes a “Me” mentality, where you come first and others come last.

Teams without trust experience tension, pessimism, and to put it plainly, unproductive behavior.

A lack of trust is often the root problem to a slew of other symptoms, including high turnover rates, territorial departments, disengaged team members, and poor results.

Does this sound familiar to you and your organization?

Teams With Trust

On the other hand, teams with trust experience high levels of productivity, thriving team engagement, and positive thinking.

Teams with trust place emphasis on team achievement over individual achievement. In other words, they practice a team-first mentality, which unites individual contributors for the benefit of the team as a whole.

Team members with trust may exhibit…

  • Honesty with themselves and with others on the team
  • Willingness to engage in difficult conversations for the benefit of the culture
  • Commitment to identifying and destroying sources of negativity and/or gossip
  • Alignment behind team decisions that they may not believe are the optimal solution

Team Avaya: A Team With Trust

If you haven’t watched our documentary, you need to. It’s called For The Team for a reason.

Team Avaya, New Zealand’s most successful Adventure Racing Team, exemplifies what team trust looks like.

Captain Nathan Fa’avae and his team have won six (6) of the last seven (7) World Championships, a feat that far outcompetes all other Adventure Racing teams.

Fa’avae explains how team trust is built through the ups and downs of shared experiences.


You get to see people at their absolute best and worst. Perhaps that [trust] is one of those things that makes our team consistently competitive. There is a high-level of trust, but more than that, there is a high-level of respect for each other because we’ve seen what people are prepared to do for the team.

Nathan Fa’avae, Team Captain of New Zealand’s Adventure Racing Team


Adventure Racing is an intense environment, to say the least. It is uniquely designed to test your endurance, outdoorsmanship, and most importantly, your teamsmanship.

For Fa’avae and his team, they trust each other to train for the race in the months leading up to the event, to support one another when the going gets tough, and to always have the team’s best interest at heart.

What are you prepared to do for your team?

How Trust Breaks Down

Trust may take months or even years of shared experiences to build up; yet, only seconds to break down.

There are many instances when trust can break down in a relationship. For example, trust can break when someone violates team expectations, displays inconsistent behavior, lacks self-awareness, avoids sharing vulnerability, abandons their duties, etc. The list goes on.

However, nearly all examples of broken trust point back to one thing: a lack of consideration for others. In other words, trust will break when you put your needs before the needs of your team.

For Team Avaya, Adventure Racer Stuart Lynch mentions that team trust tends to break down when people start to second guess each other or apportion blame to teammates.

How To Build Team Trust

Fa’avae refers to the process as building layers of trust. It takes small, consistent actions over time to build trust between two people.

Start by thinking of others first and placing your team’s needs above your own.

At WinShape Teams, we help organizations build vulnerable-based trust. Vulnerable-based trust is the true indicator of a great team, though, most teams do not reach their potential because they lack this level of trust.

It enables teams to relate with transparency, honesty and authenticity that facilitates cohesion amongst team members. This cohesion of talent, skills and community generates a level of performance.

Need Help Building Trust in Your Team?

Over the last 30 years, we’ve thoroughly researched what it takes to build trust in a team. Our Summits combine meaningful content with hands-on experiences to help you practice vulnerable-based trust with your team.