Teamwork Basics: Build Trust With These 4 Easy Steps to Fix Broken Agreements

How do you avoid losing trust in your team? It is as simple as cleaning up all broken agreements at your earliest opportunity, but how do you manage that?

If the recipe for TRUST in team building is to make and keep incrementally larger agreements, then what happens if you break an agreement? One of two things can happen: your partners can lose confidence in you and may withhold trust, or you can respond immediately and clean up the relationship mess that you created.

Apply these four trust-building steps with sincerity:

1. Acknowledge that you broke the agreement

Make no excuses and tell no stories. Simply acknowledge that you blew it. The first person to acknowledge the broken agreement to is yourself. Then acknowledge it to your partners.

When you are responsible enough to call yourself on your mistake, your partners do not have to pretend to ignore it, pretend to make it okay, or confront you about it.

2. Apologize to your partners for breaking the agreement

Sincerely tell your partners that they did not deserve to be treated as they were by you. Think about how you say it. You want your partners to completely get your apology, so make sure that you deliver the message with appropriate contrition. “I apologize to you,” may sound better than, “I’m sorry.”

You aren’t trying to get let off the hook here. You are holding yourself accountable so your partners don’t have to.

3. Ask: What can I do to make amends?

You may think that you know how to make amends, and, yes, you can announce that you are prepared to replace lost or broken property or make up for a lost opportunity.

However, asking what you can do to correct the situation places the emphasis on team building and repairing the relationship. Besides, it’s also a chance to make a new agreement and demonstrate trust.

4. Recommit to the relationship

Tell your partners how important the future of your relationship is to you and what you intend to do to ensure that you keep future agreements you make with your partners.

Do it today!

If you follow these four steps sincerely and with your head held high, you’ll find that you can recover from most broken agreements (that you intended to keep) and continue to .


For practice, think of at least one relatively minor broken agreement (such as “I’ll call you” and then you didn’t) and one relatively major broken agreement (…yes, that one!), and clean them both up before the end of this week. You can free up even more energy if you do it before the end of today.

Developing trust as part of your team building process is essential. Team members must have confidence in one another if the team is to be successful. Making and keeping small agreements is how to begin building trust, because if you don’t keep small agreements, you won’t get the chance to make large agreements. Big or small, if you break an agreement, make sure to clean it up right away so the team can move on.

Learning how to trust just right is only one of many principles Christopher Avery teaches in his book Teamwork Is An Individual Skill. He has taught hundreds of leaders to operate their business, and lives, more successfully. Find additional resources to master leadership or build a responsible team (or family) at

Posted in Responsibility, Teamwork on 03/16/2011 01:23 am
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