secrets to building trust as a leader cover image

8 Secrets For Building Trust As A Leader

by Alison Robins, Content Writer

April 28, 2017

Trust and leadership go hand in hand, however, it doesn’t come with your title. It needs to be earned.

It’s at the root of every good relationship, including that of manager and employee. When your employees trust you, and they perceive that what you’re doing is honestly in their best interest, you are more likely to have an engaged team.

trust and leadership quote

It doesn’t matter if you buy the fanciest foosball table and give your employees all the free food and vacation in the world, without trust, none of it matters.

Before you learn the 8 secrets to earning trust…

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The Importance Of Trust In The Workplace

Trust affects a leader’s impact and the company’s bottom line more than any other single thing.

The office is in a way another home, which stands on the foundation of trust. If the foundation is weak and shaky, the company, like a house, can crumble.

When trust is lacking, so is happiness, and when employees lack enthusiasm about their jobs, their work suffers.

Trust is requisite in the workplace day-to-day so that everyone feels they are there for the right reasons, working toward common goals that are made transparent. Without trust relationships suffer, or worse – they end. And losing employees is not ideal for any company, as the cost of employee turnover is steep and the hiring and training processes are time-consuming investments.

8 reasons why trust is important in the workplace:

  1. Trust helps avoid hostility on your team, which likewise helps avoid unproductive traits such as passive aggression.
  2. Trust helps employees be more accepting of change, an inevitability in all companies.
  3. Trust helps employees be more receptive to negative feedback. If they know you have their best interest at heart, they’re more likely to take your negative feedback in a positive manner.
  4. Trust helps motivate your team.
  5. Trust increases employees’ loyalty to their company, and therefore their ambassadorship, which subsequently functions as an exceptional recruitment tool.
  6. Trust helps employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas, which is key in the forward movement of any organization.
  7. Trust boosts morale and nurtures a positive company culture.
  8. Trust increases productivity and therefore quality work, leading to happier customers.

How To Build Trust As A Leader

1. Demonstrate Passion

If you want your employees to be passionate about what they do and produce great work, you need to do the same. They need to trust that you are there for the right reasons and that you care about the company at large.

When you demonstrate passion, you align yourself with the company mission and values, which is a truthful expression of your intentions within the organization.

How To Demonstrate Passion: Be active on the company’s social media, wear and use the company swag that is given out, and most importantly, participate as often as possible in work-related activities such as lunch and learns, after-work outings and company events.

2. Share Your Knowledge

Being knowledgeable about your industry or product instills trust in your team because it suggests that you know what you’re talking about.

This Harvard Business Review article reveals from their findings that employees like to know that their bosses can do their jobs as well as they can do their own, and that they have technical competencies that extend beyond their own.

For example, has the manager at a car repair shop ever himself been under the hood? Has the owner of a hospital ever helped save a life?

Employees are far happier when they are led by people who have worked their way up, with a deep expertise in all activities of the business.

Once they know that you know what you’re talking about, they’ll be more comfortable turning to you for questions, and more open to accepting your decisions, feedback, and constructive criticism.

Fun Ways To Share Knowledge: Organize lunch and learns to pass along knowledge to your team, and encourage team members to curate their own lunch and learns as well. Sharing knowledge and demonstrating expertise is a great way to build trust on the team.

3. Keep Your Promises

As we were taught when we were young, and from being let down in our personal relationships, don’t make promises that you can’t keep.

how to earn trust as a leader quote

It sounds simple enough, but as a leader (especially a first-time manager), it can be very tempting to want to gain the admiration of your team with grand gestures and statements. But the truth is that admiration comes from trust and respect more than anything.

Making false promises, even just once, is hard to recover from, for as we said, trust has to be earned, not bought.

Keep Your Words In Mind: Think before you speak, and keep in mind that your words resonate with your employees. For example, if you promise after-work drinks at the end of a big project – go for drinks. If you promise to look into a specific professional development opportunity for your employee, look into it. And, if you ask your employees to submit feedback, do something with it.

4. Trust Them

how to build trust in the workplace quote

Trust goes both ways. Showing that you have trust and faith in your employees’ abilities, decision-making skills and judgment is a great way to open them up to trusting you. Leadership is not only about you being a great leader, it’s about helping your team become the best that can be. Ultimately, your success is a reflection of theirs.

How To Show Employees You Trust Them: Ask employees to spearhead projects, lead presentations and propose new initiatives. Or, when feasible, offer them the opportunity to work remotely, demonstrating that you trust their intentions within the company, whether they are in or out of the office.

5. Communicate

Without communication, you cannot get to know someone, and without knowing someone, it seems almost impossible to trust them.

In fact, many employees wish they had more constant communication with their managers, and one of the telltale signs of great leadership is constant communication.

importance of communication quote

Communicate with your team often, about everything – good and bad. When something is great, give praise and recognition. When something needs improvement, talk about it and find a solution. The point is to ABC – Always be communicating – in order to leave nothing vague. Clarity and honesty are crucial to nurturing trust.

Tips For Effective Communication: In addition to monthly one-on-ones and of course daily communication (remember to say good morning to your team every day!), request feedback from your employees on a weekly basis. Pulse surveys are a great way to keep a pulse on how your team is feeling, and allowing them to submit anonymous feedback helps to bring down the barriers and ease any hesitations they might have had about sharing thoughts and feelings.

6. Get To Know Employees Personally

Trust is all about relationships, and putting in the time and effort to getting to know your employees on a more human and personal level is a great way to build this trust.

Take some time to have face to face meetings, and check in with your employees often throughout the day. Basically, make it a point to be as interested in them as you hope to be interesting to others.

how to be a good leader

How To Get To Know Your Employees: On Monday morning, have your team go around and say what they did over the course of the weekend. You’d be surprised how many interesting and perhaps unexpected hobbies your employees have, and they’ll be grateful that you asked.

7. Be Transparent

One of the most powerful ways to build trust is by simply being open and transparent in all of your communications.

Transparency is important always, but particularly important during the tough times. When and if the business isn’t doing well or you’ve encountered a rough patch, you need to communicate openly with your employees and explain to them what’s going on.

Transparency is key to building trust on your team because it makes employees feel they are part of the larger picture.

Tips For Being Transparent: Hold monthly town hall meetings to review the past month’s efforts, wins, losses, and new initiatives. Share everything from what you’re excited about to what you’re concerned about. Even share numbers. When you show vulnerability you become more trustworthy, and you also let employees know that you see them as more than just their daily tasks.

8. Admit to Mistakes, And Share Credit

Many people, including managers, have a hard time taking the blame and accepting responsibility when a mistake is made. Good leaders understand the power in owning up to mistakes and rectifying them. Taking responsibility shows that you are just as human as the rest of the team and that there is always room for improvement.

Similarly, when something goes well, a smart leader will thank everyone else on the team instead of solely accepting thanks and recognition for themselves.

When employees know that you’ll thank them and credit them for their work, they’ll be more motivated to do things properly, and that will establish a relationship based on trust.

Show Your Willingness To Improve: In your monthly one-on-ones, ask for feedback from your employees on how you have been doing and if they have any advice for you to improve upon. Letting them know that you are aware of your own shortcomings and hope to improve shows that you are trustworthy.

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How do you build trust on your team?

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