How to Build Trust in Your Team? Start with You, the Leader


It’s not an easy thing to spot - or accept - lack of trust from your team members. Erosion of trust could originate from any number of things: poor workplace policies, unsettling (true or untrue) rumors circulating around, lack of communication from management, disgruntled employee or partner disputes, or an organizational culture that doesn’t value its people.

Whatever the cause, the longer it persists the more difficult it is to rebuild that loss of trust - and the more dangerous it is to an organization’s ability to function successfully.

Trust starts with leadership

You may or may not be the cause of the loss of trust in your team or workplace - the issues may be within your control, or not. Either way, it’s your responsibility to address the problem by starting with ... yourself. The good news is that these practices I’m about to outline are simply good leadership skills. So, take this as an opportunity for personal reassessment and growth.

The first step is to examine your own behavior, honestly and openly, with the knowledge that as you walk the talk, those under your leadership will start to follow. You can’t expect any more from your team than what you yourself would do.

1. Personal accountability - Make sure the actions you take are those you are willing to stand behind, no matter what. Making excuses or playing the blame game does not engender trust in anyone within earshot!

2. Own your own part of the situation - it’s heartening to know that people want to see honesty, not perfection, so be willing to admit it if you have been untrusting or untrustworthy. Be open with your team by meeting and talking with them about what you see that needs to change - and enroll them in the solution. As Brene Brown says, there’s a power in vulnerability. It actually makes you a stronger leader, not weaker.

3. Gain trust by trusting - It’s common for leaders not to trust delegating to their employees, which is a disservice to your team as well as the organization. Find ways to set the tone of teamwork in your group. “Trust of Capability opens the door for team members to contribute, to use their knowledge to make a difference. Members build this type of trust by leveraging the skills and abilities of one another, seeking each other’s input, engaging in decision making, and teaching of new skills.” (Source: Why Trust is Critical to Team Success).

4. Consider this wisdom - “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication...the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Stephen R. Covey said this - yes, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ®, so being trustworthy and engendering trust in others is a vital part of being effective as a leader. Communication is key here - whatever you’re doing to encourage open communication and exchange of ideas, do more of that!

5. Give it time - Rebuilding trust won't happen overnight. Be patient and consistent, and you will start to see a difference in the actions and feelings of those around you. Don't give up!

Are you seeing issues around trust in your team or workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or get some perspective and understanding from experts on teams and trust; schedule a conversation with us here.Keep following our blogs as we share research and tools from our ongoing study of trust and teams.