Trust in the workplace is non-negotiable but it’s not a given.

To paraphrase Canadian self-development author Brian Tracy, trust is the glue that binds all relationships together, especially that between the leader and the led.

In every workplace environment, this statement is absolutely true. There’s no ‘yeah, but…’

If you’ve ever been part of a team where there has been a distinct and obvious lack of trust, you’ll know what a nightmare it is. Everyone has their own agenda and it ends up with just a group of people attempting to work together with no common goal, just individual goals. More often than not, the net results are disappointing.

Information is held back, there develops internal battles for ownership, rights and responsibilities and cooperation is begrudged.

How Do You Build Trust In Workplace Teams?

It’s all about the maths.

Here at Vital Minds, we use the Trust Equation which we delve much deeper into during our workshops.

So, to gain (or earn) trust in the workplace, we apply the tenets of credibility, reliability and intimacy.


This has to do with the words we speak. For example, your team can trust you if you are knowledgeable – credible – on a particular subject.

Capability – Do you have the technical ability and relevant skills to do the job required of you?

Respect – Do you share similar values and are you accepting of others’ viewpoints and ideas?

Communication – Do you communicate clearly and concisely, modifying you style dependent on to whom you are speaking?

Courage – Do you have the ability to do and say what you mean, especially when you’re faced with adversity or opposing thoughts and ideas?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these, you can tick the Credibility box.


This has to do with actions. For example, your team can trust you if you deliver what you say you will deliver.

Dependability – Do you do what you say you’ll do without procrastinating, dithering or leaving it for someone else, hoping it will get done?

Fairness – Do you treat others with respect and consistency, the way you’d want to be treated by other members of the team?

Supportiveness – Are you actively progressing the wishes or plans of others in your team?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these, you can tick the Reliability box.


This refers to the safety and security of you entrusting a team member with a task, letting them know you trust them to get the job done.

Empathy – Do you have the ability to understand the feelings of other members of your team?

Unselfishness – Can you often put the wishes of others before your own?

People Connectedness – Do you feel genuinely connected to your team with feelings of acceptance, collaboration and the fact you are creating something bigger than the sum of the parts?

Openness – Are you approachable, transparent, honest and engaging with a clearly understood set of core values and a way of working that will get the best from your team members?

Vulnerability – Are you comfortable showing your weaknesses, admitting your mistakes and being open about your fears?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these, you can tick the Intimacy box.

The three tents of credibility, reliability and intimacy are all underpinned by self-orientation – whose interests are people working towards? Their own or the greater good?

Self- Orientation

Think of self-orientation like this; if your level of self-orientation is high, we do not hear others. We do not hear what they say and more importantly their non-verbals. The noise inside our own heads drowns them out. People’s self-orientation may be high because they are self-obsessed, self-conscious, full of themselves etc.

If, however, your self-orientation is low, your ability to pay attention someone else is high. When this happens, the other party experiences it as caring. If anyone thinks you care about them, they are likely to trust you.

People are acutely aware when your focus is on yourself and they infer that this means you do not care about them. From this inference, rightly or wrongly, they then decide you are untrustworthy.

Being a component part of a team means that skillsets are shared, there’s no-one who knows it all (even though some will claim such an ability) and everyone is working towards a single goal. There is no sound business case for doing it any other way.

‘As a culture, we are moving from a group of people who know it all to a group of people who want to learn it all.’
Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft

Building Trust Is Easier Said Than Done Though, Right?

As a team leader we’ve outlined the traits you need to develop yourself to gain the trust of your team members but how do you start creating a culture of trust within your team?

There is no downside to having a culture of trust coursing through every vein of your workplace. It fosters an environment centred on innovation, collaboration, creative thinking and productivity.

Here are our top ten ways to build trust within a team –

1. Consider fear and trust as legitimate business topics. A hard step to take on the basis that no-one likes to admit to their vulnerabilities but if there is a level of fear at work, people are more likely to hold back rather than be up front and honest. By taking action and asking people in a safe environment to share their thoughts on the company culture, trust follows.

2. Stop blaming and shaming. Publicly outing an employee for a mistake has an incredibly detrimental effect on their confidence and ability to ask for help. By constantly tracking mistakes (however small) but saying nothing about successes (however small) will only encourage staff to update their CVs. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn. Guide, support and encourage and the mistake won’t happen again. Embarrass someone and it will because they won’t care.

3. Look at your employee policies and handbook. In fact, one source we read suggests that the majority of businesses can quite easily reduce theirs by 75%. Most businesses have far too many rules and punishments embedded into their corporate culture. You are not employing errant schoolchildren, you are employing talented, creative and business-minded adults. Stop pestering them with secondary school rules.

4. Be open and visible. In many offices there is a clear and obvious disconnect between the management and the staff. Have the CEO pop into meetings to see how things are going, have very informal get-togethers so the top brass can let everyone else know what’s going on inside the organisation. If the two groups are connected, it demonstrates the value the staff are held in. No-one can lead through a closed door.

5. Value your people. They are so much more than units of production who have to deliver an ROI. When you make human decisions rather than mechanical decisions based on the bottom line, people notice.

6. Everyone is individual. It’s easy to look at a team as a single block rather than a group of individuals who all have specific needs and challenges. By taking the latter road, real leaders can focus attention on specifics which in turn will get the very best out of everyone.

7. Admit when all is not rosy in the garden. It’s OK to admit when mistakes have been made, both on a personal level and at a corporate level but as we’ve alluded to, don’t dwell on them, certainly don’t call anyone out for making a mistake and absolutely don’t try and squirm out of it and lay the blame at someone else’s door.

8. Be human, not a jargon machine. When you speak to your teams, try as hard as possible not to sound like an online jargon generator. Here’s the perfect example – when the try-hards are sat in front of Lord Sugar in the Apprentice boardroom and he asks something like ‘who was responsible for that decision’, someone will ‘fess up and say ‘that would be myself Lord Sugar.’ No-one talks like that in real life so don’t do it at work.

9. Ask questions. How are you going to find out what your teams want, how they could do better, what resources they need, unless you ask. Anonymous surveys simply reinforce the culture of fear. Face-to-face is the way to instil trust but once you have your answers, make sure you act upon them.

10. Be honest. The more insight and visibility your teams have about the future (their own, and that of the business), the better aligned they will be to the common good and the more they know about the organisation’s plans, priorities, challenges and opportunities the more in sync they will be with the leadership team.

There should be nothing higher on your to-do list than building trust with your staff, your peers and those above you in the food chain.

For more details about our workshops and 1:1 coaching, contact us today!

Jules Peck Vital Minds Business Training Ltd
T:+44 7931 325 642
T: #vital minds BT

Trusted by some of the biggest brands