Who do you trust? Who trusts you?








If you were asked to name the five people you most trust, who would be on your list? Your spouse or partner? Parents? Siblings? Relatives? Friends? A colleague? Your boss?

Who would name you as one of the people they most trust? Anyone you work with – your boss, colleagues or subordinates?

Whether in your personal or professional life, trust is one of those things you earn over time through a consistent set of actions that affect people in positive ways. People trust you because they believe you will make their lives better, whether in ways large or small.

I’ve often asked participants in leadership development workshops to list some of the traits they most admire in an individual they consider to be an ideal leader. Words like trust, integrity, and honesty consistently show up.  Why do these things matter so much in the workplace? Because they are the foundation on which successful teams and organizations are built. The most refined and focused vision and strategy won’t matter if there is no trust among people at all levels and layers of an organization.

Do you sincerely trust your boss? Do the people who report to you trust you? Do you and your colleagues trust each other? Research shows that teams with high levels of trust canstockphoto3084977perform at high levels and achieve better results at lower costs. The most trusted companies also have lower employee turnover rates and higher profitability.

The kind of workplace trust that made American workers the most productive in the world is being increasingly eroded by higher levels of uncertainty, employers who treat workers like cogs in a machine, increasingly mobile employees, a workplace that is getting more and more virtual, and a high regard for individual achievement that encourages opportunistic behavior.

Trust is a two-way relationship, meaning those who seek to be trusted must show they are able to trust others. We are unlikely to trust anyone who does not trust us in return.

If you are in a leadership role, building trust is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your success and that of your team. Here are some thoughts on how to do that:

  • Be good at what you do. Competence is basic expectation for leaders. Few things will build your credibility like gaining a reputation as a problem solver, and few things will destroy it like consistent failures. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Hone your ability to manage complexity and shifting priorities.
  • Be authentic. Show that you are guided by a consistent set of principles and values. Be true to who you are and show a willingness to accept others for who they are. Admit what you don’t know and learn from others around you. Be willing to share insight with others.
  • Be compassionate. Leadership is as much about the heart as it is about the head. People won’t follow you or trust you unless they are convinced you care about them. You needn’t be a pushover, but people respond well when you respect them and show empathy for their circumstances.
  • Be a good communicator. Maintain a consistent conversation with the people on your team. Share information when appropriate. Be focused. Be clear. Be concise. Be curious. Be a good listener.
  • Be dependable. Reliability is another of those traits that is expected of leaders. Only make promises you can and will keep. Follow through on the promises you make and follow up to make sure things are getting done.

The willingness of people to follow you figures considerably in your potential achievement as a leader. They will follow you only when they trust you.


©2014 Robert Naylor Coaching and Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved


Robert Naylor is a journalist, consultant, certified coach, facilitator, and speaker who helps people become better leaders, improve workplace performance, and find focus in their careers and life. He is available for on-site training, private coaching, keynote presentations, and commentary. For more information visit naylorcoaching online or contact

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