Building team trust using a Trust Canvas

Let’s talk about Trust. Rather let’s talk about different instruments and activities that can help to improve team relationships, convey expectations and help people to develop a team agreement.

I have noticed that we often talk about the importance of Trust in relation to the team, to subordinates, to managers, to spouses and to politicians. Furthermore, we all know that trust is necessary and important for all people. But how can we build good, long-term relationships in practice? How can we get team members to concentrate on trust development? What practical tools and exercises (in addition to falling back on colleagues arms) can help us to build or strengthen Trust? Which instruments should we choose?

Force-field analysis

Before discussing how to grow Trust in our Team, you should decide what kind of Trust we are talking about and understand what’s under it. I assume that every team or company has its own vision of trust. I like using a layered approach described in the book “Management 3.0” (Jurgen Appelo). Jurgen suggests for us to consider four levels of trust:

  • Trust your people (from the leaders to the team)
  • Earn trust from your people (from the team to the leader)
  • Trust between team members
  • Trust in yourself

All these levels are important and demand special restrictions and approaches for improving them. But you’d better start (and any changes) from the fourth level, with yourself. In order to analyse each of the trust levels we can use a Force-field analysis.


The main idea of the force-field analyses is rather simple:

  1. Draw the problem or metaphor in the center of the larger inscription or drawing. (in our case, this is Team Trust)
  2. At the top-left corner write “Forces that help us to create trust”. At the top-right one write “Forces that destroy our Trust”.
  3. Draw arrows showing the direction of development and resistance. A good practice is using different colors for each of them.
  4. Organize a series of discussions.

Such an approach allows us to look at the issue from different angles. Furthermore, these ideas can be considered a basis for further discussions and evaluations.

Team Trust Canvas

After a series of exercises and brainstorming sessions with various teams, we have clustered the most frequently occurring factors that positively influence Trust in teams (and from different sources too, for ex. “The Trust Edge” David Horsager). We created a new instrument which we are glad to share with you – the Team Trust Canvas.

The main purpose of this tool is to build a discussion around the trust and possibly generate new rules or agreements in a team.


How it works. We start with filling the fields on our “canvas”:

  1. Clarity. A Team experiences trust when they see transparency and mistrust when things are ambiguous. How shall we build and support the clarity, openness and transparency? How can we avoid the uncertainty and vagueness?
  2. Connection. It is natural for people to follow others and build relationships. How can we connect and engage with each other? How can we improve our relationships and reduce conflicts?
  3. Compassion. Team members need to care about each other. Are we ready to show concerns? Are we ready to be compassionate?
  4. Value. People want to trust those who support their values. How can we align them?
  5. Competency. We have confidence in those who stay fresh, innovative and competent. How do we grow our competency?
  6. Commitment. We trust only those who demonstrate a commitment to action. How do we take responsibility and fulfill it?
  7. Contribution. People are motivated and engaged when they deliver results. People trust results. Is anything getting done? How do our rules and policies promote getting things done? How do our organization’s culture reward results?
  8. Consistency. We like to see the things done consistently. Is our trust and confidence rising or falling each Sprint?
  9. The most important part. What else is important for us?

As a result, we get a visual picture which can be a starting point for building Trust in our team. In addition, this tool allows the good understanding of mutual expectations and the causes for conflict.

Is there an alternative?

Will these tools be suitable for your company or team? Will you get a 100% results? I want to be honest – No! In my opinion, the tools for building trust is a secondary consideration. The main thing is to begin thinking, speaking about trust, investing our resources and time in it and realizing that it is a long and laborious process.


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