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It should come as no shock to you that one of the most important elements of a fruitful relationship is trust.  Without it, accomplishing anything is doubtful, and attempting to do so is laborious. As a manager, the trust your team members have in you is a thing to cherish and uphold with reverence.

The Basis of Trust

Simply stated, we trust another when we believe with confidence, based on experience, two things:

  1. They have our best interest at heart.
  2. They will do what they say they will do.

What does it mean to have another’s best interest at heart.  In the image attached you see a grandfather teaching his granddaughter to ride a bike.  My granddaughter is only 2 years old but I have no problem understanding the love and commitment of the grandfather, and also the trust of the granddaughter. It’s a beautiful image for us to consider as managers.

Having the best interest of another is part one.  There’s still the second element of trust which is we do what we say.  Perhaps you have known the frustration of a relationship with someone who met the first criteria without the second.  We say “she’s a great employee but you just can’t count on her.”  Or we say “he’s such a team player but he doesn’t always show up when we need him.”

As managers we need to check both boxes when it comes to our employees.  They need to really believe we have their best interest at heart and that we’ll do what we say.


One of the best ways I know to build trust is to get to know each other.  Building a relationship requires time, patience, and a genuine desire to learn about the other party.  I recall in my early days how I did a miserable job of this.  I’m quite sure some of my early teams understood that my only concern was how I would be viewed by my boss, not by them.  I made it clear by never allowing time to talk about anything but “the goal” of our team.  I chuckle when I think about how perplexed I was that I wasn’t getting more voluntary cooperation from the team.

Are you struggling in one of your relationships with a direct report?  Ask yourself what you really know about them.  Based on your recent interactions, what might you be communicating to them about your level of concern and support?  Is it possible that they think you only care about their performance and not about them as individuals?

The Power of Trust

Think about examples of how you put your trust in someone or something and that allowed you to grow in a way that you couldn’t have grown had you not had trust.  The earlier example that most parents relate well to is teaching a child to ride a bike.  There’s just no way to explain that moment when you let go of the seat and watch as they continue to pedal.  Your child overcomes the fear by believing you won’t let anything bad happen.  That’s the power of trust.

One of my early mentors, Bill Garner, had a great line.  He was referring to helping salespeople persevere through their doubts about their ability to make it in commission sales.  He would say “let them live on your belief in their ability to succeed at the task until they can develop their own.”  In other words, they may not believe they can do it but if they believe you believe they can,  that may be enough to get them to proceed with confidence.  I’ve come to learn however, that it only works if you have a relationship that produces trust.  The point being that you need to invest in the relationship to have available the power of trust.

Transformational Exercise

Take a few minutes out of your busy day to invest in yourself.  Grab a pen and a piece of paper and do some writing about the topic of trust.  Paul J. Meyer, another of my mentors, had a great line when he would say “writing crystallizes thought, and thought motivates action.”  Here’s some prompts to get you started:

  1. Do I consistently fulfill my verbal commitments to my team?  When I say I am going to do something, do I perform?
  2. I need to spend time building a better relationship with ……
  3. Evidence that I have my people’s best interest at heart includes…….
  4. Someone on my team who could benefit from “living on my belief about them until they can learn to believe in themselves” is….

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