How you can develop trust in the workplace and why it’s so important

Article by Clare Spratt 

Recently, I’ve been asked a lot about trust; how you can develop and maintain trust at all levels in the workplace. While trust has always been essential in work, I believe it’s more important than ever as we continue to adjust to new ways of working.

Trust creates psychologically safety, which allows people to truly be themselves, freely share concerns and identify friction points before they become pain points. This, in turn, has the potential to unlock personal breakthroughs, leading to team and business breakthroughs, which can increase productivity and help achieve business goals.

So, how can you create trust in the workplace? Perhaps most importantly, invest in self-awareness – because self-awareness helps you understand what you’re great at and any potential blind-spots; where and how you can add most value; how to challenge appropriately; and how to turn your ideas into new realities. Increased self-awareness leads to others-awareness, which helps you become more understanding and accepting of others, creating more effective ways of working and achieving better business outcomes.

Next, understand that, depending on personal preference, trust can manifest in different ways. People with a strong preference for action tend to develop trust through delivery, actively seeking out those who can help them, or the team, achieve success. Essentially, trust is earned when results are produced. For people who openly exude enthusiasm, trust comes from being included; that’s because it shows you have each other’s back. For people whose primary focus is relationships, trust is associated with shared values and loyalty. These people try to create an environment that enables others to be authentic and vulnerable; sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Finally, people with a strong preference for self-contained introversion tend to equate trust with evidence, asking questions and seeking examples to prove that techniques and approaches have been successful in the past.

Now, apply all these elements together. With increased self-awareness and a better understanding of the different personality preferences, you’re better equipped to have open and honest conversations with colleagues that build trust at a personal level and keep activities moving along.

An example I often share with my learners, in terms of building trust, is the ‘rule of 5%’. This involves sharing your communication preferences with colleagues and seeking to understand theirs, then making a conscious effort to move toward them. By taking a 5% step towards the preference of others, everyone is 10% more aligned – and that makes a huge difference. That’s 10% more effective communications, 10% more productivity – and 10% more trust.

Another example I give learners is around demonstrating trust. Whatever role you’re playing, be inclusive and ask others their opinions; if an immediate response isn’t your colleague’s preference, give them the time they need. Listen to what they say and collaborate on the agreed course of action. If you’re in a leadership role, step back and allow your team to show they can be successful with this solid foundation in place. As a team, celebrate successes, recognise individual contributions, and depersonalise any failures by focussing on lessons learned.

I also talk about trust-based leadership and how important it is to be vulnerable and ‘show up’ authentically. It’s not about over sharing or revealing personal life details, it about creating a safe space to share risks and fears as a team. This allows everyone to start on a level playing field and buy into a shared vision. It also builds psychological safety, where risks and fears can be surfaced, so they can be addressed and resolved on the journey to success.

Whatever role you play in an organisation, or project, when you understand how to create the space for trust to develop, use positive behaviours consistently, and try to understand what people need from you, you create trust. When you encourage that behaviour across an organisation, you create a trusting workplace culture – and that’s what leads to business breakthroughs.

About the author

Clare Spratt People Development Consultant and Facilitator

After 18 years working in learning and development, I set up Netley Consulting, a boutique consultancy offering programme design, learning delivery, and workshops for leaders and their teams.

I help businesses achieve their goals by focusing on people; that’s because businesses only truly succeed when people feel valued, are supported to develop and grow, and there is a culture of mutual respect and appreciation.


Clare Spratt

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