Building Trust in Teams Using the Power of Personality Types

Updated: December 12, 2023
9 minutes read
Losing trust in your team can go faster than you think. Find out how the personality type of your team members decides how you will build trust with them.

Couple of years ago I was working with a small consulting agency. They had developed an amazing innovation product for big companies and had already attracted a couple of big clients. They had smart, hardworking people in their team who knew their stuff.

And yet, when I talked to their accountant, she told me that if they didn’t find some new clients soon, the whole agency would run out of money in less than six months.

How was that possible?

After a few weeks getting to know the team, a very simple answer slowly emerged: The CEO didn’t trust his sales guy. Every time the (very competent) sales person presented the pitch he wanted to use on potential customers, his boss stalled him out with unnecessary meetings, found a bunch of meaningless flaws in his presentation, and basically sent him back to square one. In the eight months since they had hired him, their sales guy hadn’t been able to present the product to a single potential customer.

No wonder they were running out of money.

“Trust” – a term that is being thrown around in team building workshops around the world. And for good reason. To be able to trust your employees, your team members, and your boss, is the linchpin on which the success of your team and ultimately your company hinges.

What you will learn

What Happens When You Don’t Have Trust in Teams

In this guide, you and I will explore the landscape of trust in team dynamics. We’ll start general and go more specific later on.

Part One will look at five common behaviors that erode trust in teams as well as five constructive strategies for building trust in teams.

Delving deeper, Part Two examines how different personality types, namely those of the Enneagram System of Personality (I’ll explain why we chose that one), influence trust dynamics on a person-by-person level. This is the heart of what I’m trying to teach you today, so pay close attention!

By the end of this article, my aim is that you will have a comprehensive understanding of what you need to know to build (or be part of) a team that can perform the way you want it to – because your team mates trust each other.

Building Trust in Teams by Personality Path. Photo by Azzedine Rouichi on Unsplash

Eroding Trust & Building Trust in Teams – 5 Ways to Do Both

Trust within a team is delicate. In this first section, let’s look at some behaviors and attitudes that – no matter the people involved – will erode trust quickly and efficiently. Check yourself for any of these:

  1. Lack of Transparency: Trust takes a nosedive when team members feel that essential information is being withheld or obscured. A lack of transparency creates an environment where individuals suspect hidden agendas and quietly feel excluded. Over time, this will lead to a breakdown in trust as your team members question the sincerity and openness of their colleagues and leadership.
  2. Consistent Negativity: Being consistently negative is like releasing a virus into the workplace. It spreads pessimism throughout the whole team. When one team member habitually criticizes, complains, or expresses doubt, this will slowly but surely poison team morale. Others may begin to question the team’s abilities, objectives, and overall purpose, ultimately eroding trust in the team’s collective capacity to succeed.
  3. Missed Commitments: This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people forget it: Trust is intricately linked to reliability and accountability. When bosses or team members repeatedly fail to deliver on their promises or meet commitments, it erodes trust within a team. People will see the unreliable person (hopefully no you) as someone that cannot be counted on to fulfill their obligations. Ultimately, it makes them doubt the team’s ability to achieve its goals.
  4. Poor Communication: Here’s a fun fact: It’s much easier for most people to assume negative rather than positive intentions when given the choice. That’s the simple reason why effective communication is the lifeblood of trust in teams (and a whole topic on its own). When miscommunication (or lack of communication) happens on a regular basis, it fosters suspicion and misunderstanding. Incomplete information, vague messages, or failure to convey intentions clearly lead to confusion and doubts about motives. Over time, it erodes trust as team members question each other’s intentions.
  5. Lack of Accountability: Trust thrives in an environment where team members take responsibility for their actions and decisions. That means that when people avoid accountability and deflect blame onto others, it undermines trust in teams. Any lack of integrity and ownership makes it difficult for team members to rely on one another. As trust diminishes, the team’s ability to collaborate effectively is compromised.

Let’s go to the other side. Building trust in teams is an art that requires deliberate effort and commitment. Again, on a general level, take a first look at these five fundamental strategies to cultivate trust within your team:

  1. Consistent open communication: Just as miscommunication feeds into people’s negative biases, transparency and clarity kill them off at their roots. If you and your team members openly share information, insights, and concerns, you will eventually dispel any doubts and misperceptions. When everyone is on the same page, trust is growing.
  2. Reliability and Consistency: When you deliver on commitments consistently, people tend to trust you. Team members who demonstrate reliability by honoring deadlines, meeting expectations, and following through on promises, reassure others that they can depend on them.
  3. Empathy and Active Listening: Understanding your team’s perspectives is a cornerstone of building trust within your team (more on that in a bit). Practice active listening to genuinely comprehend your co-workers’ thoughts and feelings. Show empathy by acknowledging their concerns and validating their experiences.
  4. Accountability and Ownership: Trust thrives in an environment where individuals take responsibility for their actions and decisions. Embrace accountability by admitting mistakes and working towards solutions. Ownership of your own role within the team strengthens a sense of reliability and trustworthiness.
  5. Conflict Resolution Skills: Conflicts are natural in any team, but how they are handled can either strengthen or weaken trust. Developing conflict resolution skills allow you to address disagreements constructively. When you encourage open dialogue, compromise, and the seeking of common ground, you reinforce trust among your team members.

If that sounds simple to you, that’s because it is – on paper. But how do you actually implement these things practically? Let’s go a level deeper.

Building Trust in Teams by Personality Path. Photo by Coasteering on Unsplash

Using Personality Types to Build Trust in Teams

Now that we have reached some common ground on the basics of building and losing trust, let’s take the next step.

Since building and losing trust in teams happens on a one-to-one level most of the time, the more general points we talked about above now need to be translated onto actual people.

And when talking to actual people, you need to acknowledge that all of them are different.

The Ennnegram System of Personality

That’s where personality typing systems come in. There are a lot of them – Myers Briggs, DISC, the Big Five and many more – but we (and many others) think the best of all of them is the Enneagram.

Why? Three reasons:

  1. The Enneagram let’s you remember other types, not just your own. If you’ve heard of the MBTI, you know it features sixteen different personalities. And I’m willing to bet with you that you have never and will never memorize all of their names, traits, and important features. Which makes it kind of useless when working with a team, because you need to instantly know what a person’s personality type is telling you, not first read up on it in a handbook.
  2. The Enneagram doesn’t care as much about traits as it cares about motivation. Many other typologies categorize personality types by a certain cluster of traits and behaviors. But traits won’t help you understand why a person is behaving the way they do. And without understanding their motivation, you won’t understand how you need to approach them.
  3. The Enneagram lets you get practical quickly. As soon as you understand the motivations, beliefs, fears, and desires underlying each of the nine personality types of the Enneagram, you quickly understand what that means for you on a practical level. But to help you out, especially if you haven’t heard of the Enneagram before, I’ll spell it out for you here.

Building Trust in Teams (and Losing it) With Each of the 9 Enneagram Personality Types

The beautiful thing about the nine types of the Enneagram is that, once you understand what they are about, you can almost immediately conjure a mental image of a person who is just like that. This is actually crucial, because the way our brains function is through stories. To connect with a personality type, you need to be able to tell yourself the story of that type. And the Enneagram makes it easy.

So, what does the story of losing and building trust in teams with each Enneagram type team member look like? Let’s go through them one by one.

Type 1 – The Improver

  • How to Build Trust in Teams with Type 1: You build trust with Type One by providing clear guidelines and expectations. Acknowledge their commitment to high standards. Encourage their sense of purpose and dedication.
  • How to Lose Trust in Teams with Type 1: You lose trust with Type One when you criticize or challenge their principles, when you undermine their sense of control, and when you disregard their attention to detail.

Type 2 – The Helper

  • How to Build Trust in Teams with Type 2: You build trust with Type Two when you acknowledge their helpfulness and express gratitude for their nurturing qualities. Show that you genuinely value their support and selflessness.
  • How to Lose Trust in Teams with Type 2: You lose trust with Type Two when you take their helpfulness for granted. They are very forgiving, but when you fail to reciprocate their kindness they will burn out at some point. Also, disregard their needs or emotions, and they won’t feel safe being who they are for long.

Type 3 – The Performer

  • How to Build Trust in Teams with Type 3: You build trust with Type Three by recognizing their accomplishments and goals. Support their ambition and drive. Encourage their adaptive and goal-oriented nature.
  • How to Lose Trust in Teams with Type 3: You lose trust with Type Three when you question their abilities or undermine their achievements. Because by doing that, you diminish their sense of competence. Also, don’t unnecessarily dismiss their ambitions as excessive.

Type 4 – The Original

  • How to Build Trust in Teams with Type 4: You build trust with Type Four when you respect their uniqueness and creativity. Show genuine interest in their emotions and insights. Make them feel like they belong to the whole team. Encourage their introspective and imaginative qualities.
  • How to Lose Trust in Teams with Type 4: You build trust with Type Four when you criticize their individuality or dismiss their emotions. That just makes them feel even misunderstood. Don’t minimize their ideas as overly dramatic.

Type 5 – The Investigator

  • How to Build Trust in Teams with Type 5: You build trust with Type Five by valuing their expertise and insights, providing space for solitude and reflection. Encourage their analytical and perceptive nature.
  • How to Lose Trust in Teams with Type 5: You build trust with Type Five when you repeatedly invade their privacy, demand too much interaction, or disregard their knowledge and boundaries. That’s a sure way to erode their sense of autonomy.

Type 6 – The Loyalist

  • How to Build Trust in Teams with Type 6: You build trust with Type Six through being reliable and supportive and providing reassurance in uncertain situations. Acknowledge their commitment to responsibility and their loyalty.
  • How to Lose Trust in Teams with Type 6: You lose trust with Type Six when you break promises, create insecurity through inconsistency, or fail to address their concerns or provide reassurance. That way, you fuel their underlying anxiety.

Type 7 – The Enthusiast

  • How to Build Trust in Teams with Type 7: You build trust with Type Seven when you embrace their enthusiasm and creativity and encourage their exploration of new ideas and experiences. Support their spontaneity and sense of fun.
  • How to Lose Trust in Teams with Type 7: You lose trust with Type Seven by constraining their spontaneity, dampen their excitement, or dismiss their dreams as impractical. All you do with that approach is stifle their sense of joy and adventure and take away their motivation to do great work.

Type 8 – The Challenger

  • How to Build Trust in Teams with Type 8: You build trust with Type Eight by being straightforward and honest in your interactions, acknowledging their assertiveness and confidence. Show that you can handle their assertive nature and protectiveness.
  • How to Lose Trust in Teams with Type 8: You lose trust with Type Eight when you attempt to manipulate or overpower them, challenging their sense of control. Never, ever betray the trust or exploit any rare sign of vulnerability shown by a Type Eight, or you will likely lose them forever.

Type 9 – The Peacemaker

  • How to Build Trust in Teams with Type 9: You build trust with Type Nine by promoting harmony and inclusivity within the team, allowing them to express their opinions without fear of conflict. Create an environment where they feel heard and valued.
  • How to Lose Trust in Teams with Type 9: You lose trust with Type Nine when you create unnecessary conflict or ignore their input. When you fail to appreciate their efforts to maintain harmony, you disrupt their sense of inner peace and security.
Building Trust in Teams by Personality Path. Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

Building Trust in Teams With the Enneagram in Real Life

Back when I was working with the agency I mentioned in the introduction, I decided to ask the CEO if I could introduce them to the Enneagram. I didn’t mention the conflict with their sales guy, I just told them they might find it interesting.

As I thought, he turned out to be a Type Six. He was viewing the world through the lens of potential danger and catastrophe, and the fast-moving, let’s-fix-things-along-the-way approach of his sales guy made him feel extremely worried about the reputation of his company.

I then asked him if he wanted to get the whole team on board. After how much it had helped him, he immediately agreed. His sales guy turned out to be a Type Three. The slow and stalling approach of his boss had eroded his trust in their qualities as a leader to almost zero.

It wasn’t until I asked them to assume the position of each other and view the world through their eyes that things finally changed. The CEO realized that his sales guy’s approach wasn’t an attempt to challenge his decision-making abilities, but simply the way their brain worked. Threes like to move fast. And on the other hand, the sales person was finally able to recognize that the careful stance of their boss had saved the company multiple times from making bad investments.

With that change in perspective and the ability to appreciate each other’s strengths, the CEO agreed to give their sale’s guy the benefit of the doubt, while the Type Three agreed to have regular feedback meetings on how the sales presentations were going.

Trust had been restored. And finally, things started moving.

Where Do You Start? By Exploring Your Personality Type

If you want to use the power of the Enneagram to build, rebuild, or grow the trust in your team, or even just to gain more awareness of yourself, here’s the first and most simple way to start:

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
back to top
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram