For years now, team and individuals have asked me to help them build thriving relationships at work (and in life). Many are struggling as they look to their right and left – and they wonder why some teams are thriving and others are not. Some have built an atmosphere of amazing mutual respect, open discussions, and overall candid honesty; while others are competitive, divisive, and narcissistic in nature. What is the difference?

Well, there are certainly many factors which play into strong relationships; however, as Pat Lencioni has pointed out in his work, TRUST is the basis on which all other aspects are built. Trust enables folks to try (and potentially fail) without fear of judgement or repercussion. Trust fosters open feedback which helps each person to learn how to ‘lift their game’. Trust allows even the most timid individuals to speak up, add value, and offer creative ‘out of box’ ideas without fear of rejection or being viewed as ‘stupid’.

We have all been on teams where we feel that level of support and trust. Most of us have also been on teams where we feel judged, ‘less than’, and ‘out of the inner circle’ which can hinder true teamwork; not to mention inhibiting those individuals becoming all they can be.

So, what do we do about this? Three suggestions – which are as easy as a few words woven into your discussions with others – to consider:

1. Say, unequivocally to each and every person with whom you work: “I trust you”. As leaders, this simple statement – when said (and meant) authentically, will create a trusted atmosphere. Words are very powerful. I know when leaders in my past have empowered me through this simple phrase, I stood taller. I swung for the fences. And, I achieved more than I thought possible. It is astounding how liberating someone’s ‘permission’ through this simply phrase can give you an added spring to your step!

2. Ask the simply question – “What do you think?” In my coach training, we strongly embrace the ‘what’ questions. They are generative and open-ended, which gives the receiver input into their next steps. There is NOTHING more encouraging than having someone truly want to know what you think AND earnestly listen to your input. When we, as leaders, ASK versus TELLING; we can learn so much. And, of course, you will then be perceived as a person (and leader) who cares and values input and perspectives.

3. Finally, trust builds trust. Period. Say thank you – early and often. When you make a mistake – own it – and admit it openly and honestly. When teams and relationships are built on the bedrock of Trust, the spirit de corps is undeniable. The productivity, growth, and ultimate success (measured by numerous factors) is enhanced. And, those that are not anchored in a trusted environment are in a word – dysfunctional. They compete. They vie for attention. They gossip. They ‘circle wagons’ and exclude others. On which team would you want to work?