3 tips to building more trust in your team


After interviewing leaders for my most recent book, one leader’s answer to the question, “How do you know people are telling you the truth?” has stayed with me, because it’s so simple.

This seems so simple, and yet, in my hours of conversations with leaders, people issues seem to occupy 70% or more of their time. It also led me to another thought: Simple is rarely easy. That’s especially true when it involves things like trust, conflict, love, truth and teamwork.

As leaders, our ability to trust is the foundation of our relationship with our team and our ability to stay focused on the bigger work that leaders do, rather than being consumed by the day-to-day business and doing the work you hired your team to do. Here are three tips to becoming a trust-building leader.

Know your own type: Are you a trust-giving or trust-building person?

Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Baker made a point during our interview that addresses a key piece of your self-awareness as a leader, because it impacts how you lead.

I feel like there’s a couple of ways that people approach others with regard to trust. The first is they are like my late grandfather. His approach was he didn’t trust anyone. They had to earn it. I am actually the opposite. I think everyone starts with what I call your “trust account.” It’s like a bank account. With him, everyone’s bank account is sort of empty. The bigger your account got, the more he trusted you. I start everyone with a full trust account, but you only get a couple withdrawals. I don’t know if either one is right or wrong. I think it’s just people’s approach to how they trust people or not.

Hire for it

Hire people who fit your management style and business culture, and who have the skills or capacity to do the work you have asked them to do. Jane Clark, president and CEO of the Michigan West Coast Chamber, shared this leadership insight:

It is so much easier to manage and trust people who are a perfect fit for your culture and the work you need them to do.

If you’re struggling with your team, hiring poorly could be the root cause.

Be trustworthy

A quote I often refer to is: “We are what we repeatedly do.” — Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, 1926

If you want trust to permeate your team, you have to be an icon of trust. Having regular meetings, showing up to meetings on time, developing a deep knowledge of your people, following through on commitments, supporting your team in tough situations and delegating important work are all trust-building activities. Do you do them? If you’re a 6 (in your team’s eyes) on the trust scale, you can’t expect them to be 10s.

Trust is an accelerator for work getting done. During the recent (and ongoing) pandemic, I witnessed a leader going down with the coronavirus and his message to his team was simple: “I trust you, so go make decisions and run the business.” Not surprisingly, the organization exceeded its plan that quarter.

Trust: Go build more!

Scott Patchin is a Certified EOS Implementer and author of the newly released book, “Truth at the Heart: How honesty, trust, and teamwork can transform your business.” A special feature of the book is insights into leadership from a diverse group of six experienced leaders. The book is available at Amazon.com.

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