How to build trust in your team

In a recent conversation with a COO we were discussing the best way to implement a significant change in one of their departments. This department had operated quite autonomously from other departments and reported directly to the CEO. However, due to recent economic challenges and new technology, the department was lagging behind in generating the revenue that was expected.

The COO was concerned that any significant change to the way the department operated may trigger employees to leave, as they had become quite rooted in how they operated. The COO was not looking forward to the conversations that were required to implement the upcoming change.

We started to work through some of the upcoming changes and how the COO & CEO were on board with the required changes, and how they saw the potential for this department to grow and outperform other departments in a few years. However, there was a hesitancy to implement the changes due to the current employee issues.

As we walked through some of the options, it became clear that there was one particularly area that was an issue.

I asked the COO. “How much trust is there in this department?” The long pause and stare indicated that I had hit a nerve with the COO.

Investment is always driven by trust.


An important focus for any leader is to build trust to ensure that those around them are invested in their cause. And since trust is not easy to measure, or to create quickly, it must be a daily/weekly/monthly focus for any leader.

In fact, trust is what will make a team perform, not goals or metrics.

Trust is the most important value for any team to perform at its peak.

However, trust is something that is difficult to clearly understand and define.


In his book, Boundaries for Leaders, Dr Henry Cloud highlights 5 components to help any organization to develop a clear definition of trust.

Connect through understanding
Working to understand that each team member is understood, that they will say what they are thinking and that they will receive what is said to them appropriately.

Be intentional to help one another
Looking out for each other and for the team’s shared objectives ensures the organization will reach their goals.

Show creditability and character
Developing the team’s creditability and each team member’s character ensures the team will move closer to each other and will give more of themselves.

Believe in the teams capacity
Helping each other rise to higher capabilities, or understanding where there are gaps, will ensure the team delivers on their goals.

Keep track of what was accomplished in the past
Building off of past wins will develop the strength of the team to trust in themselves and know what they are capable of achieving.

These 5 components will ultimately help to define and build trust within an organization and will lead to successful outcomes for teams.

When there is trust within a team they will work together on a shared objective, they will have clear operating values and they will hold each other accountable.

When there is trust within a team they will achieve the goals and outcomes.


The COO saw that they could immediately implement a number of these components and start to build back the trust within the department.

The COO was able to gain a clear understanding of how they could move forward with implementing the required changes. They recognized that it did not matter what was being changed, the timeline or the people involved, it mattered that there was trust built up within the department.

Everything that we invest our time, money and energy in, is driven by trust. If we do not trust our leader, we will not invest with them.

How do you define trust in your organization?

How are you building trust in your organization?