7 Ways to build trust for ever-changing performing teams

Our December blog mentioned how often plans change when working in an offshore, rotational environment. Dealing with these changes can be challenging or gentler depending on how psychologically safe we are within the work family (intentional words). Defining the work family in this environment can also be a challenge! Personnel change regularly, and it is seldom to join a hitch without a new face or two. These changes make it challenging to build trust and have a performing team.

How do we create that work-family when the teams are constantly changing?

Rotations, new personnel, third-party contractors, and project personnel mean we are frequently in flux. We have to start building trust, forming a team, understanding each other and learning how we fit and work together. When we look at the traditional ways teams are formed, it is unlikely that we will ever get past storming in this world!

Stages of Team Development
Model is based on the work of Bruce Wayne Tuckman 1965 ‘team stages’ 1965 and expanded in 1977 to include the 5th stage Adjourning (projects come to an end)

What can be done to bring the people together to achieve some demanding performance expectations quickly?

Karin, our CEO, recently introduced me to the concept of teaming.

Amy Edmondson defines a team as a group of interdependent people achieving some shared outcome with a clearly delineated membership, whereas teaming is collaboration and coordination to get important things done without the luxury of stable membership.

There are projects with a degree of stable memberships, where people have been around for years. However, there are regularly shifting teams in many instances, and in the offshore industry, this is common. On occasion, team members have worked together on past projects and understand how the other works, which helps when joining a new project.

This melting pot of mixed personnel and the instability of teams can cause underlying issues, leading to unhealthy safety culture and increased incidents if ignored.

Is there anything to be done about this dilemma? I asked how we can incorporate some of the teaming concepts to make these often-changing teams stronger.

7 Ways to build trust and have a performing team

The following 7 findings combine what we may know and framed to consider shifting teams.

1. Define the project's shared vision and purpose and specific hitch. What do we want to achieve over this hitch as a team? A shared vision gives everyone a flag in the ground to move towards and helps define team expectations for the hitch.

2. Have strong leadership support and ensure leaders know how the different teams need support. What is necessary for one team may differ from the following group members to continue the project.

3. Build a psychologically safe work environment, which is interpreted as one where vulnerability is rewarded, not punished. It is safe to speak up and or challenge the status quo without fear of retribution. Our next blog will unpack this crucial element further.

4. Bridging cultures by bringing people together through understanding how our differences can bring strength to the team; this knowledge is vital for a high-performing team. Understanding each person's strengths and the value they bring to the team is helpful. Add multicultural changing teams to the mix, this becomes a fundamental requirement for success. Ignoring this can create unnecessary tension and conflict.

5. Agree on what good looks like in the ways of being and working together. How do we want to be treated and not treated? This may sound like it should be "common sense"; however, common sense is only common when an agreed understanding makes sense to all involved. When teams are in regular flux and made up of multiple cultures, this check-in goes a long way to set a solid foundation for working effectively together.

6. Encourage a learning culture where it is safe to question. Few people are comfortable asking questions, especially if it may be perceived as the proverbial stupid question. Unfortunately, unasked questions can lead to miscommunication, conflict and safety issues. A learning culture also embraces the strengths of each team member.

Amy Edmundson asks, “How quickly can you find your neighbour's unique talents, skills and hope? How quickly can you convey what you bring?”

Quotes Amy C. Edmondson

In this HBR Article or her 2018 TED Talk, Amy C Edmondson talks about Creating Teams On-the-fly.

7. Don't forget to have a little fun along the way! Healthy banter can go a long way to forming relationships. Being healthy means not horsing around at the expense of others and, at the same time, being sensitive and appreciative of cultural differences... Find the people you connect with and engage in social time. This may be using the play station in the common room, having coffee time rituals with your peers or bringing your guitar to work with you to entertain others.

Are these easy to implement?

No, otherwise, everyone would be doing it.

Is it important?


Is it valuable?


Does it make business sense?

Only if you want to increase productivity, staff retention, quality and safety.

A team that works well and can learn together, contribute, and challenge each other becomes a solid, safe and high-performing team.

Making this happen

When used well, this rare commodity delivers very high returns... a little time. Dedicating time to an alignment session at the beginning of a project or hitch can save hours in miscommunication, downtime, potential incidents and rework.

I recently worked on a project with multiple new personnel, and those who had worked on the project were promoted to new positions. With each shift, we ran dedicated sessions to discuss how the team would work together, handle conflict, ask questions, and we then spent time capturing what support they needed from management.

The feedback was consolidated and presented to management, and a large proportion of the support they needed the team got. Critically was the request to back off on production pressure and let the team methodically work through the processes that needed completion.

Management had concerns that something could go seriously wrong with many new people. I am delighted to share that the result was an exceptionally well-executed operation exceeding expectations without incident and was more efficient time-wise.

A global example is the Beijing National Aquatics Centre Water Cube constructed for the Beijing Olympics 2008.

Bejing National Aquatic Centre

It is phenomenal. One of the factors that differentiated the design and construction of the Water Cube project from most large-scale construction projects was that all the experts came together at the start of the project to brainstorm.

To build the Water Cube for the Beijing Olympics, dozens of people from 20 disciplines and four countries collaborated in fluid groupings.

What can be learnt from these examples?

At the beginning of projects or hitches, it is easy to build in an alignment session. Start making this a standard expectation rather than a rushed touching base. People often underestimate the value of using time effectively at the start of a project/hitch to align teams.

Why, well, when you take the time, it is hard to see the impact; conversely, the consequences can be dire when we miss the opportunity. Helping shifting teams focus on collaboration and coordination to get important things done sets teams up for success; all it takes is a little time.

Teaming and being part of a work-family

How do these elements of teaming help to create a work family? We build trust through a common purpose, alignment, and understanding of each other, and our expectations bring teams closer.

Building trust is the foundation of a psychologically safe workplace. When we feel psychologically safe, we are more likely to open up and feel part of the team, and connect with others and not just transient members.

What does this mean for you?

Are you ready to consider how to bring these lessons to your team?

Has this piqued your curiosity enough to want to explore these questions or embrace the concepts around teaming further?

I hope it has, and we look forward to having a chat to help you understand where your team is now and where you want to get to as a team.

Book a call with us here or email us at hello@safetycollaborations.com

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