Building (and Rebuilding) Trust

Teammates who don’t trust one another spend a great deal of time and energy making sure they don’t get thrown under the bus or lied to. Lack of trust greatly slows the speed at which a team can work. However, teams with high levels of trust have the strength to weather storms, support one another and move quickly.

While we can easily identify the impact of lack of trust, it is difficult to identify the attitudes, actions and behaviors that eroded trust in the first place. According to Sue Bingham in her article, If Employees Don’t Trust You, It’s Up to You to Fix It some trust busting actions are obvious – unethical behavior, deceitfulness, taking credit for other’s work or hiding information are examples

However, there are subtle ways that leaders lose trust. Organizations with rigid and prolific systems of rules subtly communicate that they expect their employees will behave badly – that they don’t trust them. A micromanaging leader also communicates that he or she does not trust that work will get done. A leader who is too risk adverse communicates the expectation that others will fail or the worst will happen.

Trust is built with positive and consistent actions over the course of time. For leaders who want to develop trust on their team, we suggest the following trust-building actions:

  1. Display appropriate vulnerability by admitting mistakes, asking for help or advice and adopting other’s ideas when they are the best.
  1. Give up control – carefully.Allow others to tackle new projects or run programs while providing appropriate levels of support and accountability.
  1. Push for organizational change.  Leaders who remove roadblocks or speed bumps demonstrate to their team that they are working in everyone’s best interest and are helping everyone succeed.
  1. Invest in employee development by building leadership skills, focusing on strengths and investing in team building.

There are many other ways that trust can be built including honesty, following through on promises and personal integrity. In addition, by intentionally building trust, leaders develop a healthy root system allowing their team to weather storms and function effectively.