High-performing teams are essential if you want to consistently produce products, services, and experiences that win more customers. A high-performing team is more than just a group of subject-matter experts working together to advance a particular goal.

They're a group of people who work together seamlessly to make one another and the work better. As a result, producing excellence is their norm.

Trust is a cornerstone of building a team that functions in this manner. But you don't automatically start trusting people just because you're on the same team or share the same workspace. Trust is built and nurtured over time.

Building trust among team members and, perhaps more important, between your team and your company can be cultivated with simple and small gestures that don't include trust falls or stuffy team dinners.

Gainsight is a software platform that translates customer data points into insights its customers, like Cisco, Adobe, and Eventbrite, use to enhance customer success. Nick Mehta has been CEO for six years and has a 96 percent Glassdoor approval rating among more than 500 employees. 

Mehta told me three simple ways he fosters a company culture based on trust that helps everyone on the team perform at their best. 

1. Communicate often.

During my corporate career, I got frustrated by the veil that seemed to exist between the employees and upper management. We often knew when big changes were happening, but rarely discovered details about decisions that affected our careers or our work until they were final.

That environment kept us on edge. Being on a "need to know" basis fostered a level of distrust between us and leadership. We started drawing our own conclusions about was happening and why. 

Mehta takes the opposite approach by writing a letter to the entire company every week. In it, he talks about what's happening in the company and why it matters and adds a little about his personal life.

He does this to provide context, so his team can understand the bigger picture of what's going on in the business. That means he covers new products the company launches, as well as business challenges and opportunities it is considering.

Give your team the context, insight, and information they need to feel like a trusted and valued member of the team.

When you treat your team like insiders, rather than outsiders, it makes it easier for them to see and support your vision for the future. 

2. Goof off together.

Life happens in moments. And often, in those unscripted moments, you learn random pieces of information about your team that enable you to build trust and deepen the bonds in a way attending standup meetings and emailing spreadsheets back and forth cannot.

Try to recognize the power of moments like these and often induce them to foster greater connection among the team. It's as easy as starting a fun Slack group message thread.

"I started a Slack question thread that blew up, about what's your favorite forgotten 1990s song ... Those things sound so innocuous, but they really build those bonds between people that I think get us through the hard times and the customer escalations," said Mehta.

Think about how you can create an environment that allows your team to form the bonds that will help them work better together. Over the past few months, my team has benefited tremendously from quality time on random conversations over nachos and ice cream outings. We're excited to add bowling to the mix next month.

3. Create a safe space to experiment.

Part of what creates lasting bonds is trying new things. Taking on new tasks and tackling problems that you're unsure how to solve can help your team members grow, and rely on one another's strengths and insights, in a way that doing what's safe won't allow.

Mehta works to foster a culture of experimentation on his team, as a way to build trust. One of the ways he does that is by focusing on having a positive response to failure. He notes, "It starts at the top, and not seeing every mistake as an opportunity for condemnation but instead seeing it as an opportunity for celebration of risk taking."

So if an initiative doesn't quite go the way you want it to, seize the opportunity to celebrate the process the team took to find new insights that will help you improve moving forward.

When your team feels trusted and empowered to take risks to find ways to better serve your customers, they will feel more comfortable experimenting.

Business is about belonging. And your team will do a better job of making your customers feel like they belong when they work in an environment where mutual trust is a living, breathing part of the culture. 

Published on: Mar 27, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.