• Rachel McFarlane

Harnessing trust: How to build trust at work

Updated: Sep 30


“Collaboration occurs through relationships, and trust is the foundation for building effective relationships.”


--Organisational Trust Experts, Denis and Michele Reina


Trust is continuously recognised as a key way to improve employee retention, productivity and teamwork. In the ever-changing world we live in, it is increasingly important that managers and leaders prioritise trust.


Trust is the key ingredient to a successful and happy team


Developing and ensuring a feeling of trust exists in all of the relationships in our lives leads to many benefits, and this is no different when it comes to those we work with.


Building trust...

  • Encourages people to actively engage in decision making

  • Assists open and honest communication, improving workplace positivity and confidence

  • Enables radical candor to be implemented and used effectively

  • Helps with the recognition of team members’ skills and abilities

  • Avoids near misses and mistakes being made and/ or repeated, as people feel comfortable to speak up


Trust ultimately serves to improve the output and productivity of any organisation.


Building trust


So we know we should have it… but building and maintaining trust in any relationship is complicated. The word itself, trust, means different things to different people.


What we do know is that trust is an adjective and must be continuously worked on. It is hard to build and easy to break. You cannot achieve trust on your own. Rather, it needs to be mutually desirable and beneficial to all parties.


Experts in the field, Michele and Denis Reina, have published various books on trust and workforce productivity. They consider there to be three main forms of trust in the workplace: contractual, communication and competence. These are useful to expand upon.


Contractual trust: This is when you manage expectations clearly, keep to agreements, follow through on tasks, maintain consistency in your work, set boundaries and generally ‘walk the talk’.


Communication trust: This stems from feeling comfortable to challenge assumptions, ask questions, raise issues and give and receive feedback.


Competence trust: This form of trust comes when we acknowledge other people’s skills and abilities, involve others and seek out our colleagues inputs, thoughts and ideas.


By harnessing each of these forms of trust, we can reap the rewards of improved job satisfaction, happiness, growth and effective team relationships throughout our business.



So, how do we effectively build trust?


1. Be open and honest


Communication is key. It allows us to get on the same page with our colleagues and construct the necessary foundations needed to build a strong, trusting relationship.


One way to implement this approach is to share something about ourselves with our team.


By doing so, we can start to open up a transparent dialogue. For instance, if we are taking a half day so we can see our nephew in his school play, why not let our colleagues know this? It will help us to connect with them at a more personal level and allow a feeling of trust and openness to develop as a result. We are all human!


Over time, by practicing transparency and sharing appropriately, we will be better enabled to implement Kim Scott’s radical candor framework in our day-to-day lives. Radical candor is an excellent tool that looks at the importance of giving and receiving feedback in the right way to avoid breaking trust and getting the best out of our team.


Learn more about radical candor to improve your approach to feedback.


2. Give trust to receive it


Sometimes, when we are trying to build trust in a relationship it can lead to a chicken and egg problem whereby we ask ourselves: why do my colleagues not trust me?


We cannot expect someone to trust us if we do not trust them.


Building trust takes time and since it involves more than one person, it is important to take time to learn the best ways to show trust.


A great way to do this is to step back after making a plan and let our colleagues or employee(s) work on their own set project, independently.


For instance, after your next team meeting, give your colleagues space to start working out their next steps to what you have been discussing. As long as you reassure them you will be there to support them when they need it, by giving them room for maneuver, they will feel empowered to think creatively and strategically about their tasks.


By giving someone our trust, their trust for us will grow in tandem.


3. Get to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses


Learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses is a great way to build trust. By understanding their capabilities, it means you can learn when it is best to step back, as well as step forward and offer guidance so they do not feel isolated or lost in their task.


A great way to achieve this is by organising regular team meets and one-to-ones; both formal and informal, and maintaining a high level of communication with our team throughout each working day.


4. Set clear objectives


Make sure you communicate clearly what you expect from others and what they should expect from you.


Perhaps the next time you are scheduled to meet with a colleague or employee, use the opportunity to discuss each other’s expectations, so you can both be on the same page.


By communicating frequently about this, you will be able to make goals and objectives more clear in each of your team member’s minds, and as a result, reduce stress and confusion.




Whilst it may take time and continuous effort to build and maintain trust, it is one of the most effective ways to engage staff and ensure your team works to the best of its capabilities. When you are next faced with a situation where you can enter into an open and honest conversation with a colleague, embrace the opportunity and watch the relationship, as well as your business, grow from strength to strength.



Get in touch with the Higson team to learn more about the power of trust and other ways you can engage and motivate your team.


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