How To Increase Trust With Every Member Of Your Team

AdVance Leadership » How To Increase Trust With Every Member Of Your Team

Welcome to this special series of Friday411! Over the next few weeks, we’re revisiting the most foundational concepts that enable you to unleash your leadership.


1 Insight

The degree of trust that a team has determines the speed at which the team operates. When you have low trust, your team will expend significant “sideways energy.”

  • They’ll tread lightly with their words, so they don’t step on each others’ toes.
  • They won’t share the whole truth for fear of upsetting someone.
  • They’ll agree to a decision during the meeting but voice their dissent to others later.

Sideways energy wastes energy. It feels like you’re moving forward, when, in reality, you’re going in circles. When you develop trust within a team, that trust will propel you forward more quickly.

We recently worked with a leader, Jane. She was struggling to trust one of her team members, Derrick. Jane and Derrick had worked together for years. Derrick had been her top salesperson for 5 straight years and had always excelled at everything he had done.

Jane recently promoted Derrick from Sales Rep to the Sales Leader. At the time, she had no doubts that Derrick would excel. After six months, he wasn’t doing as well as she had hoped.

Jane was beginning to lose trust in Derrick, but she didn’t know why. She was thinking about letting him go and came to us to discuss it. Jane explained, “He’s always been trustworthy. But I feel like I can’t trust him now. I don’t know what happened!”

We’ve seen many leaders who feel exasperated like Jane. They want to trust each person on their team, but something is blocking it.

When you feel like this, you need to get clear on the type(s) of trust you’re struggling to build.

The Three Types of Trust

To build trust with every person on your team, you should first learn the three types of trust. This understanding will enable you to build trust intentionally and proactively with every person on your team.

Type #1: Relational Trust

Relational trust needs to be present in any relationship — personal or professional. You build Relational Trust by getting to know a person as, well, a human: that person’s family, hobbies, motives, and stories.

Here are a few questions you can ask others to build relational trust with your team:

  • When is your birthday?
  • Who are the most important people in your life (spouse, kids, parents, even pets)?
  • What do you do for enjoyment (hobbies, recreation)?
  • What are your favorite foods?
  • How do you like to be celebrated and rewarded?
  • What are formative life experiences that have shaped you?

For many Executives, relational trust is the most difficult type of trust to build because it doesn’t feel productive. 

It’s easy to believe that this type of trust won’t lead to business results. But if you don’t value your team members as people, they will lose trust in you and productivity will suffer.

We asked Jane to rate her Relational Trust with Derrick on a scale of 1-5: 1 meaning she didn’t know him well at all, and 5 meaning she knew him very well.

She gave him a 5 out of 5.

Type #2: Integrity Trust

Integrity Trust is the confidence you have in a person’s character. It’s a belief that they will be honest and fulfill their promises. If you don’t trust a person’s integrity, you will never delegate important projects to them. You develop Integrity Trust by believing that the person has the best interest of the team and company in mind.

I (Garland) once had a leader who established high Relational Trust with his team. Unfortunately, he frequently lied to his employees and clients. Over time, my Integrity Trust for him diminished until I finally stopped working with him.

Here are a few questions that can help you determine if you have Integrity Trust for someone:

  • Do I trust this person is going to be honest with me?
  • Do I trust that they are honest with others?
  • Do I trust that this person has the best interest of the team in mind?
  • Do I trust that this person has the best interest of the organization in mind?
  • Do I trust that they are going to treat others with honor, dignity, and respect?
  • Do I trust that this person will fulfill his/her promises to me?

Jane rated her Integrity Trust of Derrick as a 4 out of 5. She had worked with him long enough to know that he is consistently honest and has the best interest of others in mind. The only reason she did not give him a 5 is that he sometimes required reminders to follow through on promises.

Type #3: Skill Trust

Skill Trust is the confidence you have in the competencies of each person to do their job. Skill Trust grows when (1) a person already has the necessary skills and/or (2) a person has the ability to learn new skills.

You’ve probably worked with people with whom you had Relational and Integrity Trust. But they didn’t have the skills needed to do their job with excellence. Eventually, you lost trust because others had to step in and cover for them.

Here are a few questions you can ask to determine if you have Skill Trust for a person:

  • Do I trust this person has the skills necessary to do their job with excellence?
  • Do I trust this person can learn new skills?
  • Can this person execute their job both effectively and efficiently?
  • Can I delegate tasks to this person without needing to remind them to do it?


Jane rated Derrick a 2 out of 5. She exclaimed, “Oh, I finally get it.” Derrick was a 5 out of 5 on his Skill Trust as a Sales Rep. He was the best of the best. But, once she promoted him to Sales Leader, he was missing some of the critical skills needed for his new role.

She explained that she needed Derrick to develop a new sales strategy and train the new Sales Reps. Instead, Derrick was continuing to act like a Sales Rep. He was selling; he wasn’t leading the sales team.

Jane said, “I realize that I do trust Derrick for the most part. But I’m losing trust in him because he hasn’t developed the skills needed to succeed in his new role.”

We asked, “Is Derrick aware of the new skills he needs to develop?”Jane responded, “I thought he was. But I’m beginning to question whether that’s true.”

We asked, “What are your options for handling this situation now that you know you have low Skill Trust for Derrick?”

Jane laid out two options:

  1. Leave Derrick alone. Hope that he figures out what he needs to do. Jane was smart enough to realize that, if she did this, Derrick would probably fail. She would have to let him go, and she would be responsible for failing to help him.
  1. Be honest with Derrick. Inform him that his current role requires new skill development: specifically, leadership and sales strategy. Tell him that he hasn’t demonstrated these skills, and she wasn’t clear that he needed to develop them. Work with Derrick to develop a plan to grow in those areas.

Fortunately, Jane took the second option. She took responsibility to build trust with Derrick.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to build trust with each person on your team.

1 Action

Identify the one person on your team who you need to trust more. On a scale of 1-5, identify how much you trust them in each area: Relational, Integrity, Skill. Whatever the lowest score is, determine one action you can take this week to build trust with them.

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