The Necessity of Trust

Oct 8th, 2019

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Stephen R. Covey

Trust is very much in the news as we continue to live through unsettling political times.  We have seen recently at public level the impact when trust appears to have been broken –  The Supreme Court’s verdict on the unlawful prorogation of Parliament, the US President’s proposed impeachment and in the corporate world WeWork’s biggest IPO to date being pulled.

Trust is fundamental to our relationships and thereby our success.  The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer measures trust levels in the four institutions that we delegate important aspects of our well-being:  business (economic well-being), government (national security and public policy), media (information and knowledge) and NGOs (social causes and issues) and it has some relevant findings for corporations and business leaders.

In its UK survey this year it reports that more than four in five people said they believe CEOs should drive change instead of waiting for government to impose it – a significant 19-point jump on last year. 62% of employees are looking to their CEO for leadership during challenging times. Additionally 76% of people believe that how a business treats its employees is a key indicator of trustworthiness. As debate continues around workforce issues like equal pay, the living wage and diversity and inclusion, the reputational impact of internal issues is becoming increasingly external.

Therefore, companies that lead on change in these big areas have an opportunity to improve their image both internally and externally. According to Work From Home Week, 4.2 million people regularly work from home in the UK. Flexible working is on the rise in the UK and without trust this initiative would fall apart. When this arrangement works well, it provides improved levels of trust and greater life satisfaction on the part of the employee which can only lead to better loyalty and productivity.

In my own work with clients I have seen how important building trust is to their careers.  To give an example a senior executive had enjoyed success in everything he did.  Strategy was one of his key strengths and he had risen through the ranks with ease.  He hit a roadblock recently in a demanding new role and he felt unsupported by his team to deliver the vision and strategy.  When we analysed the situation he realised that he had not spent sufficient time engaging with his new team in any meaningful way.  High-level conversations about the strategy had not created the strong ties he needed for his team to trust the new strategy as one they could believe in and stake their careers around. With extra time spent getting to know his team and seeking their input, he was able to change this detached response to a commitment that was emotionally driven with genuine care towards the outcome and the end goal.

Trust can also break down between Partners and/or Board members who have worked together for years and have allowed a disagreement or frustration to build up.  In my work with Executive Teams when building a strategy for growth I spend considerable time realigning the relationship of key partners so that the team can come together as a cohesive unit that can debate healthily while retaining the respect for each other and make decisions effectively.

So how do we decide whether we trust or not.  In my view there are 3 pillars of trust that we can use as guidance:  competence, reliability and sincerity.  In other words we just want to know that someone is able to do what is expected of them, that we can rely on them to do it, and that they are genuine in everything they say and do.  Meeting these expectations forms the strong foundation of trust, from which robust, supportive and mutually beneficial relationships grow.

If you would like to improve trust levels in your team, peer group, at board level, here are 7 tips you might find useful:


1. Build trust before you start working with an individual or a team. Get to know them – find out what their values are, what is important to them and what is not. And let them get to know you too: show who you are as a person and what’s important to you. I recall a client in a new role asked every member of his team in their first meeting to bring a photo noting their most important values which he placed on his office wall.

2. Communicate effectively and openly. Be consistent and avoid saying one thing and doing another – but if you have to, because circumstances have changed, be transparent and honest about this.

3. Share your knowledge and demonstrate the competence that got you to this senior level. Your team and colleagues all want to trust that you’re someone worth giving their best for. They are your cheerleaders, and will appreciate your success, which will reflect on them too.

4. Value people’s time. If you have agreed a one-to-one with a team member don’t consistently reschedule.

5. Walk the talk – if you publicly state how important certain values are in the organisation, make sure you embody those values. You are the role model.

6. Show your human side and the challenges you have faced personally and professionally – people can relate to imperfections as well as strengths

7. Show people what you value and respect about them – let them understand how their strengths add value to you, the team and the business. Support their goals and have their back at times of crises.


Find Out More

Is now the time to explore the value of trust in your organisation? To begin the conversation email Oona at

If you would like to know more about what our clients have gained from our coaching we have lots of testimonials that you might find interesting

Sign up to our Leadership Insights & Articles here.


Related articles:

H is for Victory.  Why Human Connections Make the Difference

Why Leaders that Listen Build Cultures that Thrive

Gain Buy-In to Change