Mark Billage

Jul 8, 2022, 2:00 PM

Trust crisis – are you meeting the fundamental needs of your team?

As I reflect on where we are as organisations, hopefully having weathered the storm of the pandemic, I am more convinced than ever of the significant part that trust plays in successful and effective leadership and, therefore, the teams they lead.

Marcus Buckingham, who works with the ADP Institute, completed a global workplace study in 2020 on engagement and resilience. One of his findings around trust in leadership should make you sit up and take note.

When you trust your leaders, you are more likely to be engaged and bring your best, but only 7% of those interviewed felt that they had that level of trust in their lives. This is the lowest it has ever been! In short, organisationally, we have a trust crisis.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
Stephen R Covey

Trust is the engine that relationships are built around. It is crucial if we are to succeed in work and what goes unrecognised at times is the high cost you bear at all levels of an organisation when there is a lack of trust. Without trust, how can I believe that leaders have my best interests in mind? You need your employees and your colleagues to trust you. Trust means taking action that places you in the hands of others.

“Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.”
Brené Brown

High-trust v Low-trust – what we know

  • Joy at work comes from doing purpose-driven work with a trusted team.
  • Compared with people at low-trust organisations, people at high-trust organisations report 74% less stress.
  • *Research has shown that having a sense of higher purpose stimulates oxytocin, as does trust. They mutually reinforce one another, producing more oxytocin, which produces happiness and increases empathy.
  • High stress inhibits the production of oxytocin.
  • High-trust organisations are 286% more productive than low-trust organisations.**

The best way I can think of to illustrate the value of trust is to make it clear what happens when there is a lack of trust in relationships and, in this context, the team. If trust is low in the team then you will question whether your colleagues or the team leader have your back. You will be second guessing what they are saying and whether they will deliver on their promises. All of this slows down the process.

When trust is high people are free to collaborate, knowing that they have each other’s back, that they can trust what is being said, and their colleagues or teammates will not cut across them or humiliate them. The slower the team moves, the more costly it becomes to the organisation. As Stephen R Covey puts it, “When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant and effective.”

There is a predictable effect when trust is there and when it is not, and the consequences are significant. It is why this is a key issue in whether teams succeed or not, whether they reach their potential or not. Teams, when they work well together, do amazing things. They reach targets that seem impossible, output rises, people enjoy working together… I could go on. The truth is that the oil that high performing teams run on is trust.

How can you build trust?

To quote Covey again, “Trust grows when our motives are straightforward and based on mutual benefit – in other words, when we genuinely care not only for ourselves, but also for the people we interact with, lead or serve.”

Here are 10 principles that help to build trust:

  1. Self-awareness – if you don’t know yourself you can’t lead yourself.
  2. Be intentional – building trust takes time. It will not be a quick fix. But the longest journeys start with the first step.
  3. Leader goes first – if trust is to be built then you need to exercise trust in your team.
  4. Know your team – trust is built when the leader brings the right challenge and support to each team member.
  5. Be vulnerable – vulnerability is not weakness. It gives your team the confidence to be open about mistakes and ready to take responsibility and be brave.
  6. Allow vulnerability in others – create an environment that doesn’t punish vulnerability.
  7. Be authentic – you are not a superhero. As a leader, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and celebrate the strengths, gifts and skills in the team.
  8. Keep your word – do what you say you’ll do and follow through on promises made.
  9. Be competent – exhibit the capabilities and experience that give the team confidence that you can lead.
  10. Be selfless – if your team know that you have the best for the team at heart before your own interests, this will make great deposits in yours and the team’s trust account.

*    Research conducted by Paul J. Zak – reported in Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2017)

**  Kouzes & Posner – The Leadership Challenge Published by The Leadership Challenge. 2012. A Wiley Brand. One Montgomery Street, Suite 1200, San Francisco CA 94104-494


Mark Billage

Mark Billage provides quality training and coaching to leaders and their teams, with the aim of unlocking people potential. He specialises in liberating leaders to transform team culture to create a place where every voice is truly heard and all can bring their best contribution in a safe environment.

Coaching, Mentoring & Training

You're good, but could you be better? Our simple distinction is that a coach challenges you to excel using your own resources, a mentor works with you to find the right way forward, whilst a consultant tells you what the answer is.

Get in touch

Do you want to hear more about our Coaching, Mentoring & Training services? Leave your details below and we'll be in touch.