Trust: How to Build It (or Tear It Down) in Your Group

Trust is like an inner city office building; It takes 18 months to build, but it can be demolished in 12 seconds. Trust-building is the key practice for success in any group or team, even when there is clarity of mission and the right players are in the room. The role of any leader is to build trust whenever and wherever possible. Here are some common trust busters and trust builders.

Trust Busters:

1. Abandonment:

When people withdrawal on a group or team — perhaps in response to confrontation — truth withers. Or, if you begin to move out of or away from a relationship, and do not communicate the reasons why, the other party assumes the worst and trust is shattered. Never leave a volunteer group or team without telling them why you are leaving.

2. Deception:

Facing the truth is essential in any community-building experience. Looking honestly at the truth about God, self, others, the world, the situation — whatever it is — is a prerequisite for building trust. To deny or withhold truth is deception, and a major trust buster. Team members tend to withhold truth when they believe their role is in jeopardy. Or, in an organization that does not value truth (where bad news is always worse for the truth-bearer than for the organization), people are afraid to name reality. Shooting the messenger is too common a practice, so, to survive, we avoid the truth.

3. Violation:

This can be as serious and tragic as a rape, or as subtle as having no boundaries in a relationship. When people enter our “space” (literally or metaphorically) we feel violated. Someone stands too close, invites him/herself to meetings they do not belong in, enters email conversations where their point of view is not required, or acts like there is a friendship where there is only a working relationship. Soon your trust for that person — and maybe even the entire group — quickly wanes.

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Bill Donahue
Bill served at the Willow Creek Church & Association where he developed leadership strategies and training events for over 2500 volunteer leaders. In addition, Bill launched and led the Group Life initiative, creating tools and resources for leaders in 13,000 churches on six continents, representing over 95 denominations in over 30 countries.

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