How leaders can build trust at work, and why it’s crucial

Reading Time: 4 minutes
build trust in the workplace

Knowing how to build trust is critical for leaders and managers. Many people do it naturally. For others, it’s something that they develop over time.

Trust relationships exist between leaders and their team members, between a manager and their own boss and also between colleagues. It’s important for leaders to build trust in all of these areas.

Many managers become unstuck because they focus on building trust in some areas, but not all. Unfortunately, this is when you’ll start to see issues appear as others become skeptical of a leader’s motives.

Why is building trust so important?

Trust is important for leaders because it helps them to navigate the workplace. A trusted leader enjoys the following benefits:

  • Less scrutiny: When you trust someone, you are less likely to question what they do. This means it’s easier for them to get things done. A trusted leader doesn’t need to spend as much time answering questions or justifying their actions.
  • Greater influence: When a leader has worked to build trust, people are more likely to believe in their motives and expertise. A trusted leader can exercise more influence, which reduces the barriers they will encounter as they do their work. Greater influence means that a trusted leader is also able to implement changes that a less trustworthy person might find difficult.

How to build trust

The good news is, building trust isn’t difficult. In my experience, to build trust, a leader simply needs to show a consistent set of behaviours.

Consistency is key. Without it, people around you won’t know what to expect, and they’ll watch your every move.

1. Build trust by doing what you say you will do

It seems obvious, but I’m always surprised how often people fail to deliver on this.

I once asked one of my team members to do something for me by the end of the next day. It wasn’t a difficult or time consuming job, so I didn’t worry too much about checking up on him. By default, I generally trust my team members. Unfortunately, he didn’t deliver.

What do you think happened then?

That’s right. The next time, I checked up on him more often, sometimes multiple times, even earlier than when he was meant to be finished. He had violated my trust and I had been burnt by it.

In contrast, think about what would have happened if he had delivered on time. The next time, I would have had no reason to doubt him. In future, I’d have been more likely to just leave him alone get his work done.

Effective Leadership Course Ad

2. Build trust by communicating openly and often

When someone expects you to do something, the best policy is to communicate openly and often. If you are having issues that might stop you from achieving your goals, it’s important to tell someone.

Many leaders try to hide problems in the hope that they’ll go away. However, if you fail to fix the issues and then tell somebody the bad news at the last minute, you’re going to have a bigger problem on your hands.

Leaders build trust by communicating openly, even if it’s bad news. Everyone knows that bad news is unpleasant to deliver. You may find that you gain respect and build trust by delivering the bad news early and openly.

In our previous example, if my team member had told me he was having problems early, I would likely have felt better about the situation and offered assistance. Instead, he didn’t say anything, which led me to believe he was just incapable of delivering on time.

Share information to build trust

One of the ways I have built trust with my teams in the past is to share information openly. If I’m having an issue, often I will share it with my team.

At the very least, most of the time they appreciate knowing what’s happening, rather than being sheltered from bad news. Sometimes, they have advice for me that can help the situation.

Of course, it’s also important not to overshare. Sometimes leaders who share all of their troubles with their teams can build an atmosphere of doom and gloom, which can damage morale.

3. Build trust by matching your words with your actions

Leaders who walk the talk are far more likely to build trust in the workplace. I have worked for a few leaders who told me that I should “Do as they say, not as they do.”

This is a recipe for fostering a lack of trust in a team. If a leader continuously says one thing, but then contradicts it with their behaviour, people receive mixed messages.

This is particularly damaging for team members who start to wonder which way is the right way. For example, if you always tell your team that they should be open and honest with you, but then keep vital information from them, you are likely to lose their trust.

Unfortunately, the old saying “actions speak louder than words” rings true. Talk is cheap. Actions are what actually matter. Make sure your words match your actions and you’ll start to build trust.

How have you managed to build trust in the workplace? And how have you seen it destroyed? Let me know in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *