Creating Trust: How to Grow It Right From the Start

by Jan Richards

Trust is everywhere.

Well, it is as a declared priority for most leaders, companies and teams.

“Trust us.”

“You can trust me.”

“Believe us when we say… ”

When faced by these and similar assertions of trustworthiness, we’re understandably n… o… t s… o s… u… r… e that claims of honesty and integrity are valid in every case.

You know the feeling, too.

If you’re a leader, you know that you have to deal with periodic skepticism from those whom you hope to lead.

Yet trust IS something you can instill and grow in your company, team and organizational culture.

It all starts by being trustworthy yourself.

And that means being good for your word, in all your dealings with the people in and around your company or organization.

To create trust, do it right from the start.

You can’t add it late in the game, or brush it on like whitewash at the last minute, trying to cover up deception and other misdeeds.

Trust… if it is real… bears scrutiny.

And trustworthy people, organizations and teams are not threatened or defensive when they realize they need to demonstrate, not just assert, that they are honest and work with integrity.

If you and your organization are trustworthy:

– You mean what you say
– You do what you say
– It’s clearly true what you say
– You expect and deserve honesty and integrity from others because you’ve demonstrated, and earned it

Below, here are some steps you can take to create and grow trust in your company or team:

1. You start.

As the leader, you have to go first.

You model the behavior you expect to see in others.

2. Understand the people you’re trying to lead.

You have to read the people you’re trying to lead in order to reach them, and connect with them if you want to move them to act.

That means you have to care enough about them, and their needs to know what is important to them, and why.

3. Be open.

If a person trusts a leader, or an organization, they feel safe with them.

When you are open as a leader, your actions are transparent and focused on building a successful organization for everyone involved.

Your openness and vulnerability, when needed, are essential for creating an environment of trust and safety.

4. Be honest.

Say what you mean.

Mean what you say.

Do what you say.

And if you can’t, see Item #3 again.

Sometimes it’s necessary to reset expectations when circumstances change. That requires openness and transparency yet again.

5. Be clear.

Speak and write simply.

Use language that your followers understand.

Communicate in ways that get ideas through to them, and lead to effective actions for the path ahead.

And listen… always listen. The criticality of this cannot be overstated.

Listening well will be more valuable to you as a leader than you might ever guess.

It helps here to strengthen clarity and trustworthiness.

6. Be fair.

This gets back to the issue of safety and honesty, in many ways.

For people to trust you, and to fully commit their talent, time and effort to the group, they must feel that they are, and will continue to be dealt with fairly.

Listening well – see Item #5 again – is greatly involved in creating a team or company culture known for fairness, too.

Sometimes the thing employees want more than you would ever know is to be seen, heard, understood and appreciated by their leaders, customers and peers.

They also want to be given a fair chance to learn, grow and stretch so they’re ready for greater opportunities in the future.

7. Give them a picture, a sense of the future you hope to create together.

This goes along with openness, honesty and fairness.

Leading others means inspiring them to commit their efforts, combine their efforts, and to create a better circumstance together.

Think about times when you felt great trust.

The odds are that you had a strong sense of the future you were trying to create with others, and were committed to it.

And the odds are, also, that the pursuit seemed like a good use of your talent, energy and other resources at that time.

The ideas I’ve shared with you here are a few ways you can create and grow trust in your team or company.

What do you recommend that people try when they’re trying to create and grow trust?

About the author

Jan Richards mentors and provides online training for leaders and teams who want to change or improve, but the desired change hasn’t happened yet, for any of many reasons. An experienced entrepreneur and business consultant, Jan has led many teams and businesses through major change and improvement projects. She is based in the always-rapidly changing Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay area. Her clients include large and small companies, primarily in tech, biotech, financial services, and telecommunications. She has an MBA from UC Berkeley and a BS in journalism from Iowa State. She was a national examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for five years. Prior to starting her consulting business, Jan worked for seven years at Apple Computer where she worked on and led teams that improved key business processes in product development, manufacturing, distribution, finance and administration, and sales and marketing.