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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

What leaders can do to build trust with their teams

Trust is so important in business. It’s the foundation on which productive, successful relationships are built.

What leaders can do to build trust with their teams
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Trust is essential in any business relationship. When trust is absent, it can be difficult to achieve anything of significance. Leaders need to be able to build trust with their teams in order to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable taking risks and sharing new ideas.

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We’ve likely all heard the saying that leaders are made, not born. While this may be true for some people, there are many leaders who were born with natural leadership qualities and can still develop these skills over time through hard work and experience. I believe a leader’s ability to build trust between themselves and their employees is one of those important qualities.

THINK ABOUT THE BEST BOSS YOU’VE EVER HAD

What made them great? Chances are, one of the things that made them stand out was their ability to build trust with their employees. Trust is essential in any workplace relationship, and it’s a two-way street. Leaders need to trust their employees to do their jobs, and employees need to trust their leaders to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company. When both sides trust each other, it creates a positive work environment where everyone is able to do their best work.

WHY IS TRUST SO IMPORTANT IN BUSINESS?

There are so many reasons, but I find that one of the most important is that when employees trust their leaders, they tend to feel more comfortable taking risks and sharing new ideas. This can lead to innovation and creativity within the company, which can be essential for growth.

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Trust also creates an environment of openness and honesty. When leaders are open and honest with their teams, everyone can be on the same page about what needs to get done, leaving less room for errors or mistakes. Leaders who show that they care about their employees’ well-being by being kind and compassionate can also foster a sense of trust between them and their team members.

WHERE DOES THIS GO WRONG?

I believe it starts with how we talk to each other and to ourselves. Words have the power to make us who we are and can open new opportunities for us, or close doors. Our words are like currency. Like money, words have incredible value and the value increases or decreases based on the exchanges we have with others. As time goes by, the goal should be to increase the value of our words and the impact they have on others. But sometimes, due to our actions, there is less substance behind them.

I believe we are all leaders in life, and it’s essential that our words and actions align. I’ve seen deals lost and relationships ruined over a phrase, word, or tone. To be a truly exceptional leader, it’s imperative that we have integrity when communicating, and that we make our words and how we use them just as important as everything else.

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LOSING TRUST IS ONE OF THE QUICKEST WAYS TO KILL A BUSINESS

There are many reasons why trust can be lost, but some of the most common scenarios I’ve seen throughout my career include:

• Failing to keep promises or commitments.

• Breaking confidentiality agreements.

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• Failing to deliver on time commitments or deadlines.

• Not listening to a teams’ concerns, feedback, and suggestions for improvements.

• Dismissing the opinions of team members as unimportant or irrelevant.

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• Not taking ownership of mistakes and blaming others when things go wrong.

• A lack of transparency around decisions that affect the entire team, such as changes to working hours or benefits packages.

I think a lot of these things happen because we want to avoid conflict. No one enjoys conflict, but a leader must face it head-on. You might be reluctant to share bad news, but it’s always better to tell the truth than to be silent. Conflict resolution, when handled properly, can actually enhance your vision and, in doing so, drive employees forward with confidence.

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I find that employees appreciate honesty. It builds confidence, and when we are confident, we’re more willing to come up with bold solutions. Include employees in the adventure of being in business and don’t shy away from open and honest conversations.

TRUST IS NOT A GIVEN—IT NEEDS TO BE EARNED AND MAINTAINED

It’s a cliche for a reason, but nothing great was ever easy. You have to explicitly think about trust, work on trust, build trust, and check to be sure that trust is there. And there are just as many, if not more, things that we can do as leaders to build trust.

• Be honest and upfront about everything—good news and bad news alike.

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• Keep promises and commitments to ourselves and to others, no matter how small or inconsequential.

• Actively listen and respond to the feedback and suggestions for improvements that you get from others.

• Share confidential information only with individuals who need it.

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• Take responsibility for mistakes and encourage others to do so as well. Don’t punish mistakes but use them as learning moments.

• Apologize when you mess up or fail to deliver on commitments.

These things work. We built Two Men and a Truck, starting with just my brother and me, into 350 locations worldwide. Trust is the foundation on which productive, successful relationships are built. When it’s absent, it’s difficult to maintain healthy communication, collaborate effectively, or resolve conflicts.

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So how do we build trust in our professional lives? The answer is simple but not always easy: We must be authentic and genuine with others and consistent in our actions.

What will you do today to start building more trust in your life and work?


Brig Sorber is an inspiring author, sought-after speaker, and founding member of Two Men and a Truck.

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