Rise Performance Group

How important is trust for leaders?

“We tend to see ourselves primarily in the light of our intentions, which are invisible to others. We see others in light of their actions, which are all that’s visible to us. In this we have a situation in which misunderstanding and misrepresentation are the order of the day.”

– J. G. Bennett

Isn’t this quote so true?  I see this magnified in the business world where our actions are filtered by our own perception of an individual’s motives.

Trust is THE foundation to building a solid culture.  If a person cannot trust the leader, they will not follow them and they will not buy into the leader’s vision. If the leader cannot trust an employee, the leader will not empower them.

How can you build more trust with those you lead?

Walk Your Talk

When you make a commitment, you create hope.  This is especially true if your commitment addresses a need.  When you deliver on that commitment, you create trust.  Make sure you are doing everything in your power to only make commitments you are confident you can deliver on.

Trust builds like deposits in your bank account.  When you deliver on your commitments, your trust account grows.  When you fall short, you must withdraw from your account.  You can afford a few mistakes.  However, if you come up short too many times, your trust account will go bankrupt.  When that happens, you have lost your ability to lead effectively.

Work on the 3 C’s of Trust: Competence, Connection and Character

Demonstrate competence and the ability to add value to those who’s trust you want to gain.  Connect on a relational level.  Find common ground, check your ego at the door, be vulnerable, be transparent.  Be a person of high character.  General H. Norman Schwarzkopf said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character.  But if you must be without one, be without strategy.”

How can you build more trust among your team members?

Leaders often find themselves in a situation where mistrust is more common than trust.  You must break the habits of mistrust.  Common indicators of lack of trust include the absence of constructive conflict, absence of commitment and visual signs of passive aggressiveness.  Follow these steps to create more trust amongst your leadership team:

Create Transparency

Trust will increase when individual team members know how their peers are doing.  Use a scoreboard system with supporting metrics to create this transparency.  Make sure it includes both qualitative and quantitative information.   A good rule of thumb is 3-6 metrics per department.

Make sure your metrics are presented against a baseline, or forecast, so team members can see easily if the department is on-track or off-track and if it is improving.

Implement a Cadence

Review your scoreboard in your weekly team meeting.  Have each participant present their numbers.  If they had a good week, teach them to find ways to complement other team members or peers.  If they had a bad week, teach them to take personal accountability.

In his best seller, “Good to Great” Jim Collins said “Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well (and if they cannot find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credit good luck). At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly.”

Regularly reviewing results with team members will provide a system for creating the habit of accountability and complimenting.  Most importantly, this process will build trust amongst team members.  This process also fights the mistrust that comes from not fully appreciating another team’s opportunities and challenges.

Ask for Commitments

Create the habit of committing to a plan or a forecast in front of other team members.  A valued leadership trait is being able to anticipate and plan for the unseen.  This is a skill that can be developed and mastered if continuously practiced.

Have your team commit to goals, priorities or objectives in your meetings.  The more often you do this the faster your team will build trust and the faster your team will be able to scale.  Additionally, you will create a nimbleness that will allow you to seize opportunities and deal with challenges.  Most teams do this weekly, however, some do it daily.

No Longer Tolerate Blame

It is a natural reaction to blame others when we fall short of a goal.  However, high performing cultures develop the habit of looking inward before looking outward.  Make sure your tendency, and the tendency of your team, is to always look for personal accountability first before looking somewhere else to place blame.

According to Paul J. Zak in his article “The Neuroscience of Trust“, employees in a high-trust environment experience 74% less stress, 106% more energy and 50% higher productivity than those in a low trust environment.  Additionally, 50% more planned to stay and 88% more said they would recommend their company as a place to work.

Without trust, your leaders cannot effectively lead because they won’t have followers.  Without trust, your teams cannot effectively function because they can’t buy into the vision of the leader.

How important is trust to a leader?  Trust is THE most important thing.


Connecting with people is at the heart of building trust.  If you’re ready to start connecting, join Mark at the Dallas Business Journal on April 12 for his next public workshop, Connect Fast and Influence People.

Leave a Comment