5 Ways to Build Trust as a Manager

Lori Li
7 min read
Nov 9, 2020

Trust is one of the most fundamental things you need to have to achieve any meaningful results as a manager. So it’s no wonder that Google’s research about the effectiveness of teams revealed that trust is the foundation on top of which you build successful companies. 

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Psychological safety, camaraderie, shared purpose, and team synergy all stem from trust the team members have toward each other, the entire team, their manager, and the company itself. 

Unfortunately for many organizations, trust is still aspirational. According to a recent EY study, only 46 percent of people trust their organization, and only 49 percent trust their boss and team.

When trust is absent in teams, a lack of any meaningful results follows. How can you create synergy and rely on other people if you don’t trust them?   

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Since less than half of the team members trust their organization, their team members, and their manager, managers need to remember how important trust is and strive to build it with team members every day. 

With this in mind, here are the five cornerstones of building trust as a manager. Follow these maxims to gain the trust of your team members and achieve great results as a manager. 

1. Trusted leaders always do the right thing and treat team members like people, not numbers

Leaders make or break a team. A Gallup study found that managers account for at least 70 percent of variance in employee engagement, that great managers outperform average managers with 48 percent higher profit, and that over 60 percent of the workforce agrees that the quality of a manager is a vital factor in deciding which job to apply to.

Why is that?

Trusted leaders have a sense of what’s right and wrong. Not only do they know what needs to be done, they do it no matter how difficult it might be. 

For example, imagine you have a really great salesperson on your team. This individual really pulls in high numbers but makes the lives of other team members miserable. The values the salesperson has don’t align with the values of the company or the team. 

In such a scenario, a good manager has a difficult conversation with this person and does the right thing even when it’s hard and even if it means losing a productive team member. 

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Team members trust these managers because they know what to expect from them. These managers will “push the button” when going gets tough so the team members can feel safe within this team and respect the manager. 

When you approach your team members in a humane way and treat them as holistic human beings, then you see them as more than numbers and stats. You get a clearer picture of the entire employee experience.  

It’s this kind of reliance that makes a manager trustworthy. Team members know that they won’t be thrown under the bus if something goes wrong. Instead, they get the peace of mind that comes with knowing they can count on their manager to do the right thing — even when it’s hard.  

2. Trusted managers lead with integrity and walk the talk

Great managers who earn the respect and trust of their team members have integrity. They don’t talk in vague terms and make empty promises. These managers are quite economical with their words because they know that everything they say is a promise that needs to be kept in order to gain trust with team members — not lose it. 

If you tell a team member that you will ask for a raise on their behalf, you need to follow through on that promise. It’s that simple. Otherwise, your word will start to mean less and less. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before you lose trust. 

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When managers say something, team members need to know that it’s not just empty words. They need to know there’s weight behind those statements. That way, team members can simply focus on their work knowing that the manager’s promises are going to be fulfilled. 

This works both ways. You follow through on your word, and you can expect the same thing from your team members. You can show them with your example how it’s done. You practice what you preach and, therefore, lead by example.  

3. Trusted managers create a high-performing team by listening to their needs and integrating them with business needs 

This is a difficult one for every manager out there because there are times when business needs are so big and overwhelming that they are not in line with the team’s needs. 

A great manager knows how to balance the two sides effectively. They are able to find a way to push the team and the business in the same lane — and make sure that everyone is working toward the same team goal. 

An example would be receiving a challenging target from the management team and knowing that aiming for it would stretch your team’s capabilities. 

So what do you do? 

Try to find angles to the task that would make sure that your team meets their needs while also fulfilling the business needs. If a task requires a new skill set to be taught to the team, assign this task to one of the team members and have them research the best way the skill set can be taught to everyone in the team. 

Whatever you do, make sure that you give this to a team member that would like to work on their research and presentation skills. This is how you converge the team’s needs with the business needs. 

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This won’t always look obvious or easy. Even the greatest managers out there struggle with this task. But when your team members know that you’re fair and that you also stick up for them when you need to, they will look at you as “one of them” and that will breed trust. 

You will need to walk the thin line between sticking up for your team and making sure that they don’t overcommit and burnout from work.

4. Trusted managers earn the respect of their team members and have an ‘honesty-only’ policy

Great managers don’t ask for complete obedience. They ask team members to think for themselves and put the team’s needs ahead of their own. There’s no room for selfishness. 

Great managers try to create more leaders, not just blind followers. That’s why true leaders opt for a harder option: to lead from love — not fear. 

Leading with fear brings obedience. But it won’t help team members develop since they will be afraid of making small mistakes or errors. That will stifle creativity and autonomy in favor of blind obedience. 

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Great managers know that they need to gain the respect and trust of their team members not just by their position, but by gaining their trust and respect and demonstrating their integrity by focusing on the growth of every single team member. If you want to have your team’s respect, learn how to lead with love — not fear. The respect here is earned, not given. 

If Gandhi could use this “love approach” to lead a nation of a billion people without a title or position, there’s probably merit and weight to it.  

5. Managers who put the blame on themselves and share the successes with others earn trust

It’s astonishing how much can be done if you ignore who gets the credit. 

This is a quote from Harry Truman, the former U.S. president. And great managers know that not taking credit is a pillar of gaining trust. 

When the team succeeds, the focus needs to be on them — not on the manager. Everyone played a crucial role in creating and building success, and the manager was just a part of it. You need to make sure to give credit where it’s due and celebrate the hard work of your team members who made it happen. 

But when the team fails, the focus needs to be on the manager. It’s about what you could have done to prevent failure from happening. 

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Success is always shared, but the failures are always yours alone. Great managers know this and that’s how they earn the respect and trust of their team members. The members know that if the ship sinks, the captain will go down with it. But at the same time, they know that their hard work will be shared as a part of the formula that made the great results happen.  

The five cornerstones of building trust as a manager 

If you:

  • do the right thing, 
  • walk the talk (have integrity), 
  • converge the team’s needs with the business needs, 
  • lead with love and not fear and 
  • look out for success and inside for failure, 

you will gain (and keep) the respect of your team members. 

And that’s the ticket to a happier, more productive team — and a more cohesive company.

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