5 Ways to Build Trust with Team Members

Lessons learned from working remotely on design projects

Four individuals standing in a circle discussing a topic as a group.
Four individuals standing in a circle discussing a topic as a group.
Source: ManyPixels

Design is a collaborative effort. It involves aligning and communicating with various team members, clients, and stakeholders. Over the past few months, I’ve worked on two design projects and I’d like to share some tips I picked up for instilling trust among team members.

Four individuals sitting at a table having a team meeting.
Four individuals sitting at a table having a team meeting.
Source: ManyPixels

1. Be clear on project requirements upfront

When starting a new project, especially with clients, be clear on requirements upfront. I recommend conducting a thorough audit with team members. Take the time to analyze and evaluate any materials the client has provided.

Auditing questions to think about:

What’s the current state?

Is there anything to note about important assets or materials the clients have provided? Important assets could be user interview transcripts, wireframes, branding guidelines, etc.

What message are the clients conveying through their social media channels? Keep in mind voice, tone, and mood.

Don’t rush through this process, otherwise, it may backfire down the line.

Aligning with Team Members

Before kick-off, work with your team members to clearly outline a project schedule and timeline. Use productivity tools such as Notion or Asana to your advantage.

If you’re working in agile sprints, split up your deliverables so you’re not overwhelmed.

A screenshot illustrating the “pages” feature in a productivity app called Notion.
A screenshot illustrating the “pages” feature in a productivity app called Notion.
Break things down into systematic chunks by utilizing pages in Notion

Create a kanban board to keep track of work. In Notion, you can even toggle between multiple views (board view, calendar view).

A screenshot illustrating the “boards” feature in a productivity app called Notion.
A screenshot illustrating the “boards” feature in a productivity app called Notion.
The kanban board view

Get granular here. You want to be as organized as possible. This does take some time upfront but it’s worth it.

A screenshot illustrating the “properties” feature in a productivity app called Notion.
A screenshot illustrating the “properties” feature in a productivity app called Notion.
The different properties we kept track of for each deliverable

Create Document & Presentation Templates

Have pre-defined templates that you can copy every time you need to assemble a document or a slide deck. Not only does this save time but it creates consistency and helps with client handoff down the line.

A screenshot conveying two deliverables in Google Drive — one for creating new docs and one for creating new slide decks.
A screenshot conveying two deliverables in Google Drive — one for creating new docs and one for creating new slide decks.
Templates for documents and slide decks

When working with clients, your deliverables need to be packaged professionally and cleanly.

There should be:

  • No spelling or grammar mistakes
  • A table of contents
  • Headers, footers, and page numbers
  • Clear document context

For example, clients may not know what a usability test report is. Before getting into the weeds, outline:

What the document is, why it’s important, and how it can help them

Four individuals sitting in chairs having a brainstorming session.
Four individuals sitting in chairs having a brainstorming session.
Source: ManyPixels

2. Over-communicate

Another way to build trust is to simply over-communicate. Constant communication between all parties becomes critical, especially in a remote working environment. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask your clients clarifying questions and engage them in the design process. Email may be too clunky and inefficient so try using Slack or another quick communication tool.

Two individuals holding puzzle pieces with a light bulb in the middle symbolizing problem-solving.
Two individuals holding puzzle pieces with a light bulb in the middle symbolizing problem-solving.
Source: ManyPixels

3. Lead by example—share ideas and offer help

This is something I personally strive for when working on a team. I love sharing new resources and hearing other approaches to design and productivity. If I can help one of my team members who may be struggling, that’s a win.

Design crits are a great place to share these ideas. Every team member has their strengths and weaknesses. Asking team members for advice or a boost of inspiration is not only reassuring but builds trust.

The key:

Don’t work inside of a bubble.

Three individuals in a circle holding hands representing team success.
Three individuals in a circle holding hands representing team success.
Source: ManyPixels

4. Hold each other accountable

Accountability is a powerful tool. Especially when there’s a strict deadline, I find it critical to hold my team members accountable.

For example, if there’s a group document that needs to be assembled, everyone should be contributing equally. It can be tricky to sort out different working styles so here are my tips:

  • Divide and conquer
  • Plan your time wisely
  • Set hard and fast rules — before submitting a document, create a deadline for reviewing it with team members

Assembling a client handoff package?

Make sure:

  • All documents include a consistent layout with proper context (see above)
  • Each team member’s design files are cleaned up
  • Your folder structure has a consistent naming convention and is thoroughly organized for clients to browse through
Two individuals sitting at a table having a conversation.
Two individuals sitting at a table having a conversation.
Source: ManyPixels

5. Be open and honest — address difficult issues when they arise

Finally, being open and honest are two of the most important traits you could have as a team member. It’s pretty much guaranteed that difficult issues will arise. If you disagree with a team member on something, tell them. Don’t be afraid to address issues and have difficult conversations. Problems don’t magically solve themselves.

Building trust takes time. I’m no expert but these tips have drastically helped me collaborate and communicate better.

I hope this was useful. Feel free to reach out with any questions.

Written by

A detail-oriented product designer focusing on design systems, interactions, and research | Open to work — celinefucci.com

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