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How to Build Trust in a Team: Ziksana’s Trust Model

On the surface, trust can seem mystical, almost like a gut feeling we get about someone without a logical explanation. But trust has definable components, and once we understand them as leaders, we are better equipped to create the conditions for trust to thrive in our teams and organizations.

The Impact of Trust on Team Performance

Laura Fleig, one of Ziksana’s facilitators, has witnessed how trust impacts team performance while working at UCSD’s Challenge Course. At the Challenge Course, teams are suspended 40-60 feet in the air and are challenged to complete a series of elements while working as a team.

“When team members don’t trust each other,” she says, “they aren’t willing to rely on each other for stability. The result is that people get left behind, and they often quit after the first 5 minutes on the course because it was too hard to do alone.” 

But what about teams that are willing to trust each other?

“Those are the teams that can take on really tough challenges,” Laura says, “whenever I’m facilitating a team with high trust, I have to constantly think of new ways to challenge them. They’re pretty unstoppable.”

Research supports the claim that trust enables teams to achieve better outcomes. Trust has been significantly linked to better task performance, higher team satisfaction, and greater commitment to the organization. 

But what is the “secret sauce” of trust, and how can we build it on a team? The key lies in understanding that trust has different components, some of which are based on task performance and others that are based on how we show up in relationships.

4 Components of Trust: Ziksana’s Trust Model

Ziksana Trust Model highlights 4 specific categories that impact interpersonal trust: Authentic Connection, Integrity, Reliability, and Credibility. This model was developed based on multiple theories and studies about trust, including McAllister (1995) and Mayer, James, & David (1999).

In this model, Authentic Connection and Integrity are relationship-oriented aspects of trust, while Credibility and Reliability are more task-oriented. Authentic Connection refers to someone’s willingness to act on behalf of others. We tend to trust people whose actions demonstrate care for the well-being of others, rather than just themselves. Integrity is demonstrated by those who consistently live out their values and treat others fairly. On the task side of trust, Credibility refers to how competent someone has shown themselves to be, as well as their willingness to learn and improve. Finally, we tend to trust people who have shown themselves to be Reliable, meaning they consistently do what they say they will do. 

Trust is high between team members when they perceive that all 4 elements are present in their relationships. When one or more elements are missing, trust is weaker. 

How Leaders Can Help Increase Trust in Teams 

With an awareness of the different elements, leaders are in a better position to increase trust in their teams. However, leaders ultimately cannot control the level of trust between team members. But they can intentionally create an environment where trust can be built. 

Consider the following tips to support your team in developing the 4 aspects of trust.

Authentic Connection

  • Instill a practice of giving kudos to people on your team during weekly meetings.
  • Create opportunities for team members to connect in fun ways outside of work. 


  • Lead by example. Do the right thing, even when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable, or causes backlash. 
  • Address behaviors that undermine trust, like bullying or gossiping, swiftly and directly.


  • Provide effective feedback (be specific!) related to performance goals, team culture, and expectations.
  • Create practices that support accountability. Schedule regular team meetings for team members to share their progress, discuss concerns and address any barriers to reaching their collective goals.


  • Provide proper training so people can succeed in their roles. 
  • Recognize the unique strengths of each team member, and create opportunities for them to shine and demonstrate their competence in front of others. 

Want Support Building Trust in Your Team?

Check out our PERFORM program to start developing high performing executive teams! PERFORM is specifically designed to help team members learn tools and skills to improve their performance and relationships. This play-based, experiential program includes a workshop on Trust where team members can learn and apply Ziksana’s Trust Model.

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