The value of Trust …and the danger of losing it

May 21st, 2024


Trust in leadership is a hot topic at the moment with politicians in the UK and US asking us to choose who we trust to lead us for the next four years. Have they done enough to earn our trust though?

In business and in politics, trust is the foundation on which leaders build success.

Respondents to a recent study by YouGov on behalf of Sky News demonstrated that one of the most important things needed for voters to consider politicians to be trustworthy is that they stick to their word and do what they say. Sadly, the majority of people think they do not.

We have limited choice in politics. In business though, every business leader’s success relies on trust in every aspect of their job – it is the ultimate currency in all relationships.

During times of change and growth, people need to trust that decisions being made will be positive for them to secure their motivation and buy-in to change.

Sometimes this is difficult. I recall a leader whose integrity was clearly demonstrated in how he handled mass redundancies. He made sure everyone felt respected and valued and shared the reasons behind each decision. He assured many of them that when the market came back he would like to think they would return – and many of them did years later. The trust he built during a very difficult time for people was exemplary and this helped him steer the organisation back to success.

10 Top tips for building trust:

Trust is something that has to be earned and then continually worked on. It takes years to build and seconds to lose.

Here are some key behaviours that leaders need to consistently demonstrate to build and maintain trust:

1. Begin well – When new people join your team establish trust by having a one-to-one’s with them to share the culture of your team – leaders create their own culture.  Share the values that are critical to success and the non-negotiables, which can often be forgotten. Include your own personal values so people get a sense of who you are, what you stand for, and gain a sense of your leadership style. Find out about their values and personal and career ambitions. This time spent up front is a valuable investment that I encourage all leaders to do as it builds trust and commitment at an early stage. The absence of this can often lead to a lack of clarity which can erode trust.


2. Communicate with transparency – Share information openly and honestly, even when the news is not good. Be clear and candid in your communications, and avoid hiding information. Transparency is key to trust. As Jim Collins, author of ‘Good to Great’, says: great leaders share the brutal facts combined with giving hope for the future.


3. Stick to your word – Deliver on what you said you would do. If things change that impact your decisions let them know and explain why. Leaving this too late leads to trust being broken and you having to defend the reason for your change.


4. Share your experience – Use your knowledge and expertise to guide and mentor others. Share lessons learned from past experiences, both successes and failures, to help colleagues, clients and customers avoid potential pitfalls and to encourage their growth and development.


5. Give people your time – Dedicate time to listen and engage with others, showing that you value their input and concerns. Take your mobile phone off the desk so you can be present in conversations and to avoid distractions that may make others feel unimportant.


6. Remember the little things – Pay attention to the details that matter to people, such as important events and things going on in their personal lives. I recall an executive telling me how much it meant to him when his CEO sent a handwritten note to his wife at a time when she was going through prolonged illness. These small gestures show that you care and help to build stronger, more personal connections.


7. Show humility – Acknowledge your own mistakes and be open to feedback. By being authentic and relatable, you make it easier for others to trust and connect with you and create a culture of psychological safety where innovation can thrive.


8. Be supportive – Offer help and encouragement, and be a source of strength during challenging times. This is often the legacy you leave when people remember their ‘best boss’. The importance of how you behave during tough times cannot be underestimated. Make sure they know you are there and they have the resources they need.


9. Actively develop your team – Build time in your diary for regular one-to-ones offering balanced feedback on how they could improve and grow. Avoid rescheduling these as it sends a message that they are not important. People stay when they can see their career progression is being taken seriously.


10. Lead by example – Exemplify the values you wish to instil in your organisation. When people see you are ‘walking the talk’ it sets a precedent for the entire company.


By implementing these practices consistently, leaders can create a workplace where trust serves as the foundation of every relationship. This will show up in how you treat your customers, clients and each other. This kind of environment not only boosts loyalty and commitment but drives the organisation towards long-term success and growth.  It is important to remember, when your people thrive, the company as a whole thrives.


Oona Collins works with leaders and their teams who want to achieve great things. If you are looking to create exceptional levels of engagement and performance in your leadership team, contact Oona to begin a conversation at

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