Why building trust is essential for leaders

Trust is extremely important because being trusting and trustworthy helps you build meaningful relationships and perform better at work (and home). Today, I want to talk about what trust is, what happens with and without it and how to increase the amount of trust in your business (and life).

What is trust?

The dictionary says trust is, “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing.” But when I talk to coaching clients about trust, they rarely talk about what trust is. Instead, they tell me about three things that trust does.

  1. A trusting environment allows people to fully show up as themselves—no armor required.
  2. Trust builds safety.
  3. Trust creates non-judgmental relationships.

These are powerful results and it’s no wonder that people seek trusting relationships at home and at work. We seek trust so consistently because living without it is painful. If you’ve ever been in a low-trust environment, the next section may sound familiar.

What happens without trust?

When we aren’t trusting, we see the world as a threat. We’re suffocated by fear of losing what we’ve got and we’re on guard all the time. Too often, we wonder, “Who’s out to get me?” At work, this shows up as an inability to work well with other people, constant rumination about past interactions and a tendency to take things personally instead of brushing them off. Additionally, when we don’t trust others, we avoid spending time with them and hesitate to share information—which hampers our ability to accomplish meaningful work projects.

Maintaining a low-trust or no-trust outlook is stressful, physically, mentally and emotionally. These thoughts and worries increase cortisol—the stress hormone—and elevated cortisol is associated with weight gain, fatigue, brain fog and infections. If you’ve taken the Energy Leadership Assessment, you’ll know this catabolic energy is negative and destructive.

How to build trust as a leader

Being trusted and trustworthy feels good. Literally, when you have a trusting mindset, you produce more oxytocin, which biologically makes you feel happier. Besides being happier, operating in a trusting environment helps you lead, mentor and influence people more effectively.

Let’s look at an example of how trust improves employee feedback.

Say you have an employee named Bob who you like. Bob puts in lots of effort but doesn’t exactly deliver on quality. You may be tempted to ignore the lack of performance because of your warm feelings towards Bob. You don’t want to hurt his feelings. This seems nice, of course, but it indicates a lack of trust between the two of you.

If you let Bob’s performance slide—and commend him on his efforts only—you’re setting him up for failure and decreasing the level of trust between you.

On the other hand, acting on trust is about increasing transparency so that you can help move people forward and upward. With Bob, you can do this by addressing the issue directly and with kindness. “Bob, one of the things I’ve noticed is you’re not putting the detail into your work that I know you’re capable of. I need you to go back and do some fact-checking and spend a little more time on this project because the detail is what’s going to validate this assignment. Come back and ask me if you have any questions.”

By addressing the issue, you’ve told Bob how he can be successful on the project. Which is what he wants, or he certainly wouldn’t be putting in so much effort.

Bob might not like this honest feedback in the moment, but he’ll appreciate it over the long run because you’ve made it clear that you want to help him succeed.

How important is trust at work? Extremely!

When you’re transparent with people, they respect you, even though it’s often uncomfortable to hear constructive feedback. When you show up this way, other people see you’re looking out for them and it relieves them of the burden of second-guessing what you mean. They know what you mean because you were clear. What a relief!

Trust in the workplace is so important because it enables people to work effectively together to meet common goals.

How to add more trust into your life:

  • Be trustworthy.
  • Surround yourself with a support network. These are people who you trust to have your back.
  • Give trust first because this makes you happier and doesn’t inadvertently breed distrust like an “earn trust first” philosophy.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt, even when they leave a poor first impression.
  • Give feedback only to help someone else succeed.
  • Develop and display curiosity about other people.
  • When you feel the fear creeping in, ask yourself a few questions to clarify the situation. “What’s going on here?” “How can I approach this situation successfully?” “What’s my part in this misunderstanding and how can we move beyond it?”

Of course, you won’t trust everyone and that’s okay. But by increasing trust in your important relationships at work and home, you’ll feel less stressed, be more helpful to the people you care about and create a safe environment where you can show up authentically.  Trust matters in leadership!

Hi, I’m Vicki Bradley, an executive coach in Toronto and the Founder and CEO of Women in Leadership Empowered.

I work with women pursuing success in executive leadership roles and the presidents and CEOs who understand that strong businesses are built with strong, diverse leadership.

WIL Empowered is a year-long program where we use all four aspects of leadership development: Coaching, Networking, Peer to peer mentorship and skills development. Our mission is to help women develop the skills, motivation and accountability required to succeed in their business and personal lives.

Take our five-minute leadership quiz to discover where your leadership skills are now and where you’d like them to be this time next year.

To discover more about the WIL Empowered program, visit the website.

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