The success of your marketing team hinges on trust (and here’s why)

25 January 2022| by Paul Avery

The power of trust

When it comes to building a successful marketing team, there are many factors that must coalesce. But there is one component that comes before all others, that must be present if all other factors are to work in unison — and that is trust.

While the marketing director has a role to play in creating a culture built on trust, in order to be effective, this must be a collective effort. The best results require a strong team dynamic, as trust can mean the difference between a highly functional team and one that’s highly dysfunctional. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to help foster trust among your team.

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What happens when trust is lacking

Why is trust so important? Well, when trust is lacking, people fear conflict — they are afraid to be vulnerable and are uncomfortable being honest with the rest of the team (and sometimes even themselves). They don’t share their concerns or ideas or engage in constructive dialogue around issues. Therefore, issues and opportunities aren’t adequately and transparently explored or resolved.

When team members don’t contribute to important conversations, they are often not part of the solution. Without their input, decisions get made without them, resulting in a lack of commitment or buy-in from everyone on the team. Such a predicament can foster resentment among those who didn’t speak up and lead them to gossip (in fact, gossip culture is one of the indicators of a lack of trust among a team).

Among these individuals, there’s a tendency to avoid accountability, as they feel they weren’t part of the decision-making process (and usually aren’t committed to the outcome). Because they don’t feel accountable for the results, they put their own interests above those of the team. If the outcome is bad, they claim it’s not their fault as they weren’t involved in making the decision in the first place.

With a lack of commitment and accountability, team members are indifferent to results. This inattention translates to a lack of commitment when it comes to the overall success of the team. Ultimately, this leads to poor results, which prevents your team and department from moving forward — the makings of a highly dysfunctional team.


The power of trust

The presence of trust, on the other hand, supports the development of high-functioning, high-performing teams — those that consistently achieve great results. To build such a team requires psychological safety in the working environment. According to Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson, this is the belief that “one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

Psychological safety leads to open, honest conversations as well as a willingness to be vulnerable and to share one’s thoughts, opinions and ideas. It results in increased engagement, creativity, innovation and accountability. When team members feel a sense of psychological safety, they are more empowered to contribute, more committed to the team and more focused on achieving great results. The real power comes from all team members feeling this way.

Leaders and managers must take the lead when it comes to cultivating a sense of psychological safety. After all, you get the type of culture that you allow, and if you allow gossip to permeate, you’ll end up with a culture that can breed backchannels, information silos, distrust and even resentment. People model the behaviour they see; thus, it’s important to strive to be a good example for all others to follow and to exhibit the honesty, vulnerability and patience you want to see from others.

Trust begins by showing support, recognition and empathy toward others, by demonstrating yourself that it’s OK to be vulnerable and show weakness. But it also involves making sure desired results are clear and that achievements are shared and celebrated as a team.


Developing trust

Trust may not happen overnight, but there are things you can do to help it along. Exercises, like those outlined below, offer a more direct route and, if done right, can act as powerful team-building tools.

  • Personal Story - Invite everyone to share something from their past, such as a few stories about their childhood, the thing they are most proud of, or a challenge they overcome growing up. This provides context that helps people get to know and understand each other better, which can help team members adjust to how an individual works best. Make it clear that they are in control of what they share (and how deep they go — or not).
  • Behavioural Profiles - These assessments attempt to untangle what a person’s natural thought processes and working styles are — how they communicate, solve problems, etc. — and how they work best. Although these assessments often tell people what they already know about themselves, they reveal things that other team members may not know about them. The idea is that the more team members understand about each other, the better they are able to work together. These profiles tend to go a bit deeper than the “personal stories” exercise and, thus, can be a good activity for teams that have already started to build some trust with one another.
  • Start or Stop – For this exercise, have each member of your team list one behaviour they would love for each person to start or stop doing for the good of the team. It’s essential that your team has already established a high level of trust, otherwise you risk losing everything you’ve built. It’s also critical that the feedback is delivered with respect, warmth and empathy to avoid triggering defensiveness.  


Leaning into trust

With trust as a foundation, your department will reap the benefits across all areas. You will see your team blossom, communication increase and your processes and overall performance improve. With this comes new confidence in your ability to grow and achieve results — and more importantly, deliver on your organisation’s promise to scientists, healthcare providers and the wider world.

For more information on the topic of team trust, we recommend reading Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable”.

For more info on practical tips for being an effective marketing leader and manager, read our new eBook, “CMO Leadership Secrets – How Marketing Directors Can Build and Grow a Successful Team”.

Help your marketing team be more effective