How to build swift trust in your temporary team

Young team of engineers smiling

How to build swift trust in your temporary team

In my recent research on high performance, it became clear the modern world of working in teams is a very different landscape to that of a few years ago. The typical cocktail of a successful team included; a stable purpose over time, permanent ‘membership’ and people working together face-to-face in a common location. Whereas now it’s full of, rapid changes and very little time spent together. Without this time in teams, it becomes very difficult to build trust, an important factor for success. This now leaves teams having to adapt.

In temporary teams there’s little time to establish trust, but many teams learn to successfully manage this lack of time; flight attendants, healthcare professionals and the military, to name but a few. It seems temporary teams within these industries take a different approach, rather than allowing trust to develop over time, they build what’s known as ‘swift trust’. There are many ways to develop swift trust within a team, but let’s talk about these two:


Establishing clear roles

Although this sounds simple, ensuring time has been given to communicate individual roles so there is no ambiguity is an important tip for building swift trust. This goes beyond just understanding your role. It enables members to understand where each role fits in the wider strategy, as well as understanding everyone’s responsibility within the team.

Constantly reflect and work on your team’s reputation

It’s important to understand your teams’ brand: what you are known for, what do others think about your team and what values do your team represent? The more reliable, consistent and accurate your team reputation is, the quicker it is for temporary members to develop swift trust.


When building swift trust, there are certain things which temporary teams should avoid doing so they don’t destroy trust before it’s even built. These are known as the 3 C’s of betrayal1:   



Trust will be broken as soon as you agree to do something or abide by rules set by the group, and yet fail to do it. If circumstances change which make it impossible to stick to the original agreed terms then you should re-contract. Let the rest of the team know what’s changed and discuss the knock-on implications this may have for others in the team.


In temporary teams the one of the quickest ways to destroy trust is to withdraw information, feedback or avoid information sharing during problem solving. Within a temporary military team, a group of multinational soldiers working together often struggle with clear communication, which stem from cultural differences. This ambiguous communication channel leads to loss of information, conflict or lack of team identity.


This betrayal involves disrespecting another’s skills or knowledge within the team. As we know from David Maisters’ Trust Equation, credibility is a key pillar of trust and when others undermine our own expertise the damage to the relationship is substantial.


When working in temporary teams, Contracting, Communication and Competence should all be in the forefront of your mind to avoid falling into the common behaviour that can undermined your teammates trust. Click here to download our whitepaper and learn more about building trust in your team. 




1Fahy, M. J. (2012). Understanding swift trust to improve interagency collaboration in new york city. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey CA Dept of National Security. Retrieved from: