4 Ways to Establish Trust and Improve Your Bottom Line

In football games, fans often consider themselves the 12th man. In other words, they believe that they have the potential to influence the outcome of the game for their team.

For small businesses, trust is the 12th man. Employee trust in company leaders can significantly influence the game by allowing small businesses to successfully compete against much larger companies. Trust is a priceless, process-less competitive advantage.

High-trust environments allow people to be their “true selves” as opposed to workers who are always aiming to please. People who trust their managers can be frank, honest, and spontaneous. When teams grow on a strong foundation of trust, communication is clearer, and the diverse skills and abilities of team members are recognized. Such open appreciation inspires innovation.

Growing this type of confidence within a small company helps teams work faster, smarter, and with greater creative freedom than is typically found in larger organizations. Trust is both the fuel and the commodity of high performance in a small business. Without it, it’s difficult to accomplish anything.

You can’t afford to let a culture of mistrust destroy your team’s momentum and dedication.

How to Build Trust

Many have sought — in vain — to find the magic ingredient for building a trusting relationship. The truth is that inspiring confidence among team members isn’t as hard as it seems.

To build a greater sense of self-assurance in your team, take specific, observable actions to signal that you, as the leader, are taking the first step toward establishing trust.

Here are four examples to get you started: 

1. Share information. Many companies operate in a need-to-know atmosphere where the grapevine runs wild with rumor and innuendo. Sharing information proactively is a high compliment that says, “I know you will handle this correctly, and I value you.” 

2.  Involve people. Oftentimes, when companies go through a rough period, doors close, information dries up, and employees are no longer engaged. These are great times to ask for creative, innovative ideas. Involving people in decisions that affect them can provide invaluable suggestions for making your company a better, more fulfilling workplace.

3.  Hold one-on-one meetings. Set aside uninterrupted time to talk to people and listen. Ask open-ended questions, or ask about their families or outside interests. Show that you’re actively listening by reflecting on their words. Take interest to show that you care.

4. Provide access. Giving employees the tools and resources they need to get their jobs done engenders trust. If you need a screwdriver to do your job, but all of the screwdrivers are locked in a supply closet, what assumption is management making? The message is that employees cannot be trusted, which sends negative vibes throughout the whole company. Instead, set a standard of trust straightaway.

Maintaining the Faith

Trust is fragile; it’s so delicate, in fact, that one violation is often enough to terminate an employee. Leaders and managers who understand the reciprocal nature of trust know that, likewise, once confidence is violated, the high-performance nature of a team is jeopardized. 

To build and maintain a culture of trust in your company, it’s important to keep practicing measures of good faith between yourself and your employees. Operate under positive assumptions, such as believing that people have integrity and will assume responsibility and that your team will work hard toward meeting your company objectives.

Plans and strategies are supercharged when people bring their whole selves to work. Knock it out of the park by encouraging your team and inspiring them to reach new heights. Remember: Trust is your 12th man.

About the author

Sue Bingham, founder and principal of HPWP Consulting, has been at the forefront of the positive business movement for 30 years. She’s driven to create high-performing workplaces by partnering with courageous leaders who value the contributions of team members.


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