Trust: What it is, Why it Matters and How to Get & Keep it

Trust is something we all want. We desire to give it to those with whom we are in relationships while striving to earn it with the same. It’s expected in almost every aspect of daily life, from the person who takes care of our children to the person who handles our dry cleaning. It should be of no surprise, then, that our employees want and need trust in their management; they want and need to trust their CEO.

What Is It?
Trust is defined as an “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; one in which confidence is placed.” In other words, it’s the knowledge or belief that someone has your best interest at heart.

Why It Matters
While you can have an acquaintance with someone you don’t trust or who doesn’t trust you, true and successful relationships have trust at their core. Trust makes things happen. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.”

To put it simply, relationships, and especially work relationships, must have trust in order to be effective. After all, if your employees don’t trust you have their best interest at heart, motivating them and retaining them will be nothing less than a challenge.

Getting it and Keeping it
When you’re in a management position, and especially one of the CEO, you may find that trust comes easily in the beginning. There is almost no alternative, however. When an employee joins the force, they have little option but to trust your leadership and guidance. But, just like trust in any relationship, it is something that must be earned. So, the trust an employee has in you is limited to the situation—it is not to be mistaken as whole-hearted trust. That type of trust must be earned and then kept.

Also, just like all trust, it is easily lost and, when lost, hard to earn back. So, your goal needs to be two-fold: 1) developing a trust that goes beyond the superficial kind that comes with the job, and 2) preserving it for the long-term.

Here’s some tips on achieving both:

  • Be an example. The first, and probably the most important: don’t be the manager who exclaims, “Do as I say, not as I do!” Be the manager who leads by example, instructing employees through reference to best practices that he/she then puts into practice, every day.
  • Tell the truth. There may be no faster way to lose someone’s trust than to lie to them. Even when the news is tough or challenging, you’ll earn respect and deepen the trust when you see that relationship with your employees is worth being completely truthful for.
  • Lead with integrity. How can an employee trust you if you’re the type of person that ‘vents’ to the group and talks bad about others behind their backs? You can’t. Integrity should fill your every action.
  • Be accountable. We’ve all heard this one: “To err is human.” Don’t hide your mistakes from employees. Be accountable for your actions and let everyone learn from them. You may see it as admitting to weakness, but your employees will be grateful for the opportunity to identify with you, which, in turn, builds trust.
  • Be an advocate for others. Use your position for the betterment of others. Help them learn, grow, and advance. Taking time to help further others is a known sacrifice, which encourages trust.

The list really could go on and on. These are just the considerations I feel should be top of mind. A tip is to consider what you expect from others who want to earn your trust. What are your demands of them? You can use these as the starting point in the list of expectations for yourself when developing your own trust strategy.