Building trust in the workplace

Why is building trust in the workplace important? If your workplace lacks trust, it isn’t just a personnel problem for HR to take care of. Trust is a business issue – it can actually affect your bottom line.  

Employee retention, achievement levels and even creativity all depend on building trust in teams. After all, employees won’t stick around in an environment where they don’t feel secure, and they won’t do their best work for leaders they don’t trust.

Most importantly, successful brainstorming and innovation depend on employees trusting each other with their ideas. The crazy, outrageous ideas are often the best, but your employees won’t feel comfortable sharing them if you don’t understand how to build trust in a team 

Ultimately, your goal is profits. You need a culture of innovation and productivity to get there. And for that, you must learn how to build trust with employees, from company policies to workplace relationships. When your approach inspires confidence, your staff and company are able to thrive. 

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Why is building trust in teams important?

Fifty-five percent of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth – and they’d be right. Trust is essential to building strong teams, and teamwork is essential to driving revenue and achieving growth: One study found that businesses with the most team engagement are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than the least engaged businesses. 

As tempting as it is to relegate trust to the realm of personal or romantic partnerships, the reality is that security forms the basis of every extraordinary relationship, including professional ones. Psychology Today reports that people lie in 20% of their conversations – with strangers, coworkers and even romantic partners. Most adults spend most of their time at work, making this capacity for deception especially detrimental to building trust in the workplace. 

The power of trust is even further compounded by the current climate. Many people are working remotely, and organizations like Google are making plans to shift their business model to accommodate remote work even after the pandemic has passed. Building trust in teams becomes even more difficult when team members rarely interact in person, but it is especially essential in times like these.

How to build trust in a team

Learning how to build trust in a team of employees is critical for building a healthy company culture. When coworkers can trust each other, they are able to produce their most outstanding work. 

1. Set the right expectations

Begin with the basics. Don’t tolerate lying, stealing or unprofessional behavior – ever. Set the bar high when it comes to quality of work and interactions with clients as well. These are areas where it’s important to have clear expectations and hold employees accountable.

At the same time, as Tony Robbins says, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” Like most business owners, your end goal is scaling and growth, followed by your exit strategy. Building trust in the workplace will help to keep the creativity flowing when you’re not there. You won’t get that by chastising employees for being three minutes late or taking time off when they need it. You’ll lose your best employees by focusing on strict rules that may seem important to you, but that ultimately break trust rather than build it.

how to build trust

2. Focus on the individual

how to build trust

If you want to truly inspire your team to do great work, you also need to discover what drives them as individuals. For some people, friendly relationships and team-building lead to trust; others just need cold hard data and results. Some people may need weekly 1:1s where they can talk to you openly – others might need to see precisely-executed work.

Building trust in the workplace boils down to the fact that businesses are the people they employ. By taking the time to find out what each person needs in order to trust you and each other – and then making it happen – you’ll nurture one-on-one trust between everyone onboard. That creates a workplace that fills many of the 6 human needs, from certainty and significance to connection, growth and contribution.

3. Build real relationships

Trust starts at the top: You can’t expect your employees to trust each other if they don’t trust their leadership. Build rapport and relationships by avoiding corporate jargon, and definitely don’t skip talking to employees at all. Even the C-suite needs to interact with employees on the front lines – and frequently.

It isn’t just about talking. Deep listening is also a key part of how to build trust with employees. Get to know the people on your team beyond their work roles. What do they do on the weekends? What are their true passions? Listening closely can have multiple benefits: You’ll build trust with your employees while also learning how you can better reward them in the future.

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4. Host team-building events

how to build trust in the workplace

Building trust in the workplace used to be as straightforward as hosting social events like a pizza lunch or Friday happy hour. With remote work gaining popularity, many employees don’t see or interact with some of their coworkers for weeks or months, and hosting in-person events isn’t possible. Add on childcare responsibilities many employees are facing and team-building seems even more difficult.

It’s time to leverage new technology, which is keeping pace with our new work-from-home world. Hold a weekly virtual event that includes a fun team exercise like trivia. Give out prizes for the winners to encourage attendance and a little friendly competition. These events will also help you monitor employee morale and make changes to encourage a stronger company culture.

5. Lead by example

Any organization is only as strong as the psychology of its leader – so you must lead by example. “Leaders are what transform organizations,” says Tony. “What will make you the leader is when you have a higher expectation not of other people – anybody can do that – but of yourself.” Mastering how to build trust in a team means holding yourself to the same standards as your employees – in fact, even higher. If you skip meetings, reschedule constantly and don’t keep your word – your employees won’t either.

Great leaders bring passion and purpose to their work every day. They inspire employees to do excellent work and believe in the company, because they live and breathe those things themselves. Finally, great leaders inspire others to become leaders themselves – and you’ll need those people as your company grows.

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6. Be honest

Honesty is another area where you must lead by example. You cannot expect your employees to be honest if you are not. While you certainly don’t need to tell your employees everything, letting them know about decisions that affect them helps to build trust. Share the current health of the company, like performance metrics and even quarterly or bi-annual financial results.

Admit when you’ve made a mistake, and always keep your word. Don’t make promises you can’t keep or don’t intend to keep. When you say one thing but act differently, it’s a form of dishonesty that breaks trust.

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7. Ask for opinions – and take them seriously

Want to know how to build trust with employees? Ask them. An open-door policy can go a long way. When employees feel like they can talk to you – and that you’ll truly listen – trust is built. Along the same lines, talk about trust, fears and the company culture in general on a regular basis. Make it a part of your normal conversation, and you’ll build a safe environment where employees can truly be heard.

8. Celebrate achievements

o one wants to work in an environment where they fear making a mistake. This type of workplace will also kill any innovative spirit. As Tony says, “You have to fail to be successful.” Every mistake is an opportunity for improvement. At the same time, every achievement must be celebrated.

If your team just finished a big project or the company signed a big contract, it’s time for a toast or an announcement during a company-wide meeting. Did an individual do something above and beyond? Send out an email of appreciation or give them a shout out during your morning scrum. You’ll soon find your employees are inspired to achieve even more. It’s in celebrating hard work and innovation that you’re able to learn how to build trust in a team.

Ready to raise your standards and get to work building trust in the workplace? With the right combination of leadership, honesty and relationship-building, you’ll soon have a team that trusts you and each other – and that leads to growth for everyone.

Ready to build a corporate culture of trust?

Discover how to build trust in the workplace with Tony’s 7 Forces of Business Mastery guide.