His team didn’t trust him and Tom was confused. He was a good guy and an award winning salesman prior to being promoted. But, he and his team were not connecting. They liked him just fine. But, they did not trust him.

Trust is not easy. In today’s world, it takes more than just being a good person and being honest. The more I work with leaders (young and old) the more I see this same pattern. People want to be trusted, but they continue to do things that erode trust.

Are you trusted?

Are you trusted?

Just wanting to be trusted is not enough. Building trust with my people takes intentional effort.

When I use the term, “my people or your people” think of your team at work, your spouse, your children or any other significant relationship you may have.

Honesty? Yes! No one trusts a liar. It doesn’t matter how good he is at his job.

Competency? Absolutely! No one trusts someone who is incompetent. It doesn’t matter that she is a really good person if she cannot be counted on to do her job well.

Honesty and competency seem obvious components of trust to most people. Therefore, I ask some questions that dig deeper.

  • Do your people believe you trust them? Do your behaviors back that up?
  • Do your people know what you stand for?
  • Do your people see you and hear from you frequently?

You Don’t Trust

There is a simple formula when it comes to trust:

Trust begets trust. Distrust begets distrust.

I worked with a leader that claimed she trusted people. The problem was her actions displayed to everyone that she did not. Saying “I trust you” is not enough.

A leader who micromanages competent and motivated people or a spouse/parent who consistently second guesses the people she loves will lose the trust of her people because her behaviors demonstrate that she does not trust them.

I worked with another leader who believed “they need to earn my trust”. His people knew that about him, and they did not trust him either.

I think everyone has a deep-seated desire to be trusted by others. Leaders want to be trusted as much as followers want to be trusted. Parents want to be trusted as much as kids want to be trusted.

But the key point many of us miss is that trust is reciprocal. If I do not trust my people, my people will not trust me.

You are Inconsistent

“What do you stand for? Do your people know what those things are?”

When I ask those questions of some people, I get a blank look. The leader may know what he stands for, but he is not sure what his people would say.

A leader who knows what he stands for will have a set of values that allow him to make consistent decisions. A person’s values act like a filter for decision-making.

Values give each of us a consistent decision making matrix that will hold up during the good times and the hard times. Circumstances will not determine our actions, our values will.

When my people know my values, they know I will make decisions based on things that are stable and not on the unstable circumstances of the day.

If my people know how I think – If my people can predict my decisions because they know and understand what is important to me -They will trust me.

They may not always agree, but my consistency will build their trust.

You are Absent

The idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder, may work in love stories, but for most of us an invisible or silent leader is hard to trust.

  • How many times a day do you get face to face with one of your direct reports?”
  • “How often do you speak with each person on your team?”

The leader who regularly stays in her office from 8am – 5pm without being seen by her team is damaging her chances of being trusted.

For another blog on communicating in the office click on the following title:

I Can’t Lead Without Leaving My Office

The leader who rarely communicates with her team or only adds a short sentence to the emails of upper management before forwarding them to her team is setting herself up to be distrusted.

The simple fact is the more we see someone, the more we hear from them, the easier it is to trust them. It is easier to trust someone you know than it is to trust a stranger.

I must be available to my people. When in doubt, I need to over-communicate. If I am distant and silent, my people will not trust me.

How are we doing that with our loved ones? Am I available to my kids? Do I communicate with them?

The Bottom Line:

Trust is the foundation to every successful relationship. Whether that relationship is a leader/follower, husband/wife, or parent/child, trust is the critical element that will make that relationship work.

In each situation:

I will not be trusted if I do not trust. My team, my spouse and my children are waiting for me to trust them. When they know I am willing to do that, they will trust me.

I will not be trusted if I am inconsistent. My team, my spouse and my children need to know that I consistently make decisions based on the values they know I believe in.

I will not be trusted if I am absent.  My team, my spouse and my children will trust someone who is available and willing to engage them in frequent conversation.

My behaviors do more to build trust with the people around me than any eloquent words can. Therefore, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do your people believe you trust them? Do your behaviors back that up?
  • Do your people know what you stand for?
  • Do your people see you and hear from you frequently?

How we all answer these questions will go a long way to diagnosing the level of trust on a team and in any personal relationship.


How would you answer these questions in relationships outside of work?