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All well performing teams have one thing in common, they trust each other. Whether it be a military team, a sports team, or an Agile software development team, trust is key. Team members need to feel that they are in a safe environment so they can do their best. They need to feel that it’s okay to make mistakes.

For software development teams newly transitioning to Agile, developing trust doesn’t come easy. Here are 3 proven methods to help develop trust on your Agile team:

Communicate trust – Let the team know that trust is foundational to success. Empower team members to make decisions and mistakes. Foster a decentralized culture of empowerment. Remember that Agile teams don’t work in a hierarchy structure. There is no project manager calling the shots. It’s the team that has the power. Team collaboration is essential for success and when there’s trust, collaboration will shine.

Now, communicating a team dynamic built on trust is just the start. Just because you’ve let the team know they can trust each other, doesn’t mean they will. The team will be wary of diving into the trust pool. Although they may not be ready to trust, you have planted the seed and the team is interested. Now is the time to walk the walk.

Walk the walk: Show vulnerability and humility – After communicating trust, it’s time to lead by example. We do this by showing vulnerability and humility. This can be difficult for some to do, but it’s absolutely essential. Let the team know when you have made a mistake. Let them know your weaknesses. By showing vulnerability and humility, it lets everyone know they can drop their guards.

If you’re collaborating as a group and a team member is quiet and not engaged, try to pull them in. Let them know their thoughts and ideas are important. Voicing opinions may be new to some team members, so they’ll need a little encouragement. By valuing team members and showing vulnerability, you’ll make great strides towards building trust.

Give it time – The last and perhaps most important need for trust building is time. There is no substitute for time and the positive effect it has on team building. Bruce Tuckman’s 1965 model of forming, storming, norming, and performing still holds true. If you are part of newly formed Agile team, don’t get frustrated when there’s a lack of trust. Just like any relationship, it takes time to get to know and trust each other.

Often, management doesn’t understand the importance of time when it comes to teams. When management shifts people from team to team, it hinders team performance. The best teams consist of people who have worked together for some time. They know and trust each other. Advice to management – Don’t form teams around projects. Instead, form projects around cross functional teams.  

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