Earning Trust in Leadership

Sunday, July 1 2018

Trust is fundamental to business success. Every day leaders ask their employees to follow them into the unknown. There is no crystal ball. To achieve success, a leader needs to be able to say to the employee “trust me” and receive an unwavering “I do” in response.

Leaders can’t do every single task and they can’t be present all the time to oversee an employee’s work.  Nor should they. For the employee and the leader to succeed the employee must be able to say to the leader “trust me” and the response needs to be an unwavering “I do.”

Are you paying attention to the “I dos” and, more important, the “I don’ts” in your organization?  Rarely are they spoken aloud, but they are usually strongly communicated.

Common “I don’t trust you” behaviours

  • Micromanaging
  • Withholding information
  • Discounting feedback and shooting down ideas
  • Creating policies and procedures to monitor internet activity
  • Stopping the conversation or changing focus when someone enters the room
  • Engaging in griping and gossip
  • Failing to rely on others
  • Resistance to giving honest feedback
  • Excluding people from conversations
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Taking action without input

Common “I trust you” behaviours

  • Providing honest feedback, even when it is difficult
  • Owning up to mistakes
  • Delegating
  • Sharing information
  • Asking for input
  • Setting mutually-agreed upon goals
  • Giving others the opportunity to fail

It may be a good time to look at trust in your organization. Do you find yourself identifying with behaviours on the “I don’t trust you” list? The Trust Wheel from Results-Centred Leadership by Caroline Rowan can be used to evaluate behaviours that build and erode trust.



The best way to start building trust is by making changes to your own behaviour so that you can increase the frequency of “I do” in your interactions and build success-oriented relationships with your colleagues and staff.

Take time for self-evaluation and determine what changes would be beneficial. In addition, ask yourself what needs to happen for you to feel greater trust in your employees. Are there areas on the wheel that are holding them back from receiving your full trust?  A relationship based on mutual trust knows no bounds. Figure out what it will take to achieve a high level of mutual trust with each of your direct reports and start making it happen.