Think of a leader in your organisation who you trust.  What makes them trustworthy?  Any of the following: because they kept their promises; they supported you when you needed it; they backed you up even when they were challenged (eg by their boss, customers etc); they showed up and helped when it wasn’t convenient for them; they provided honest feedback; they demanded fairness; they took the time to develop your skills; they trusted you?

On the flip side, you may have experienced being around someone you didn’t trust and understand the negative emotions around that.  You may also have observed the fall-out where two leaders have not trusted one another, and the impact that’s had on the success of the results and the teams involved – including lack of progress, delayed completion times, negative behaviour and negative atmosphere.

If your team doesn’t trust you, it could reduce their confidence in their abilities and increase their worry about the impact of making mistakes, even down to a fear of losing their jobs.  None of which will make for a productive and effective team.

And it’s during difficult times, such as those that a lot of organisations are currently experiencing, that the opportunities to earn trust are greater.

Trust is about caring – caring for the people you lead, and caring for the success of the organisation.  Being protective and “having their backs”. Your team members will pick up very quickly if you don’t seem to care about them, their well-being or their development.

Trust is about empowerment – empowering others to develop their skills, to support and not control the individuals in your team.  In order for your team to trust you, you have to also trust them.  Delegate effectively, providing a sense of purpose and allowing autonomy of approach to the actions involved, and learn from mistakes in a positive way.

Trust is about honesty – providing honest feedback and giving people the credit for their achievements.  Taking credit for others’ achievements will destroy trust very easily.

Trust is about fairness – ensuring those around you are treated fairly, and understanding the potential for biases and beliefs to lead to “favouritism” and treating people differently.  If we feel that we’ve been unfairly treated or taken advantage of, this can trigger negative emotions that can last for a long time.

Trust is about communication – keeping those around you informed, ensuring they understand what is going on (as soon as you can) to stop rumours, providing accurate and honest information.

Trust is about being rational and objective – they can rely on consistent behaviour from you (your emotions are in check) and you will do what you say you’re going to do.

Without trust, employee engagement and motivation will be significantly reduced, and with that the results the team can achieve.  But developing mutual trust becomes natural for a leader who has self-awareness and appropriate confidence to want to make a difference.

As a leader, what benefits do you see from earning the trust of those around you?

Find out how executive coaching can help leadership development and building trust in teams.



  1. admin

    Thanks to Mark Ball on Linked In:
    Karen, without trust all the other essential behaviours become worthless. Trust is linked to perception and other peoples perception of your leadership is the key to being a great leader or an average one.

  2. admin

    Thanks to Beverley Tibbles on Linked In:
    I believe trust is two way. Absolutely we should trust and empower our teams, however we need to be realistic and supportive and develop our teams to be self aware. We shouldn’t set up individuals to fail and our role as leaders is to gauge risk. Sometimes (however much we might want to) to delegate isn’t the answer.
    The answer I believe is to have an open and honest discussion on competencies with our teams and try to bridge any gap. Where there is potential we should harness it. I find a lot can be accomplished, through learning and development, if you have a team member with the right attitude and approach.

  3. admin

    Thanks to James Parry on Linked In:
    How far you can trust any leader is a difficult prediction for staff. Open and honest discussions are definately key. If over time; a leader delivers on promises and when they dont, they give an explanation to the why… then the transparency will develop trust. Where trust starts to fall down with staff is the unknown. Although your team might not need to know everything, the most up to date informaton on factors affecting them are crucial. There is nothing worse that finding something out second hand.

  4. Pingback: The Professional Leader | Assiem

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