Trust is a foundation for effective team work (and effective organizations).
Teams don’t need blindfolded trust walks, ropes courses, or crash courses in sailing to develop trust. Activities like these may indicate absence of pathology. (If you’ve hired people that will let a blindfolded person walk into a light pole, let them fall down a cliff, stumble into on-coming traffic, or fall onto their heads from a tall platform, you’ve got bigger problems.)
None of these team building/trust building activities have anything to do with the trust that’s needed on a team. Nor do team require the sort of trust that people (often) have with close family members, best friends, and clergy.
Teams need professional trust, trust that exists within the work context and relates to competence, commitment, and communication.
Team members need to trust that their coworkers are competent related to the content of their work.
They need to trust their coworker’s intentions towards other team members and commitment to the team (and their work) as a whole.
They need to know that team members won’t withhold important information–whether it’s related to the task or to relationships within the team. They need to trust that when something comes up—either related to a commitment, or an interpersonal interaction—the other team member will communicate directly with the person concerned, rather than taking it to the manager or talking to everyone else about it.
Each individual enters a team with a certain level of trust based on their outlook on life and past experience. That level is different for every person. From that starting point, each interaction on the team either builds trust or erodes it.
Routines that maintain working relationships build trust.
Direct, congruent feedback builds trust.
Productive conflict builds trust.
Trust is not mystical, and it doesn’t come from a ropes course or a trust walk. It comes from working together, working through the inevitable frictions, follow-through, and follow-up.