featured image

Four Steps to Growing Trust

Table of Contents

Lack of trust could be undermining your growth. On the front line, salespeople and marketers are some of the least trusted people in the world. And internally, employees are disengaged when they don’t trust their leaders. By improving trust, we help our companies grow and our employees thrive. 

A Low-Trust Starting Point 

Salespeople and marketers have a bad reputation, yet they play a critical role in our firms. According to research, only 3% of us trust individuals in these roles. Even lawyers score higher! 

Internally there is also lack of trust between employees and leaders. Less than half of the employees polled trusted their boss, according to one 2019 study, and two thirds of bosses don’t believe their own direct reports. 

Without trust organizations will struggle. Customers won’t buy from brands and salespeople they don’t trust. Employees won’t collaborate, share information, and be fully engaged. And according to Pat Lencioni, leadership teams that lack trust will be dysfunctional. 

If trust is lacking in our organizations, and we want to do something about it, where do we begin? 


In a previous post we wrote about the Trust Formula developed by author David Maister in his book, “The Trusted Advisor.” Maister states that self-orientation is the denominator in the trust equation and trumps all other aspects of the relationship. If self-orientation is high, it doesn’t matter how knowledgeable, reliable, and charismatic a person is, they still won’t be trusted. However, if self-orientation is low, the opportunity for trust is far greater. 

This makes a lot of sense. In any relationship, if I am not oriented to myself, I can then focus on finding ways to help or benefit the other person. Wanting the best for someone else is the truest definition of care and love. 

But sometimes we can be blind to our own self-orientation. Thanks to evolution, human beings are wired for survival, and that translates into looking out for ourselves first, avoiding threats, and seeking things that benefit us – food, water, safety, community, and the like. It takes conscious will to set our own needs aside and focus on the needs of someone else. 

Adopting a helping mindset is the path to better relationships and trust. As Wayne Baker tell us, there’s a right and a wrong way to be a helper. The more we can demonstrate an authentic approach to helping clients, prospects, teammates, and direct reports the more we build trust. 

Here’s an example: when a salesperson says, “you know what, after looking at your current situation I don’t think our service is right for you now, but I do know someone who could help you…” This demonstrates both low self-orientation and high care for the other. 

“Great teams consist of individuals who have learned to trust each other.  Over time, they have discovered each other’s strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to play as a coordinated whole.”  
Amy Edmondson 

Steps for Growing Trust 

Everyone benefits from being more self-aware, and the more we can examine our own motives and how we “show up” with others, the better equipped we are to balance our own self-orientation with trust-building orientation towards others.  

Beyond that, leaders who want to create a culture of trust should focus on these four practices: 

  1. Start with Yourself – when setting expectations, leaders need to start with themselves. It is unreasonable to expect a standard of behavior in employees that isn’t demonstrated by the leader themselves.
  2. Keep Promises – we trust people more if they keep their promises. Maintaining a high level of accountability ourselves and demanding it from others builds a culture trust.
  3. Transparency – not everything in business is flowers and heart shaped boxes. There are setbacks, challenges, failures, and surprises. Leaders who are uncensored and share both good news and bad, will be more trustworthy.
  4. Psychological Safety – trust is higher in organizations where people feel safe – safe to be open about their strengths and weaknesses; safe to speak out even when their opinions are unpopular; safe to make mistakes. 

Trust is at play in every interaction between people. It can’t be ‘fixed’ by a single department or project. Leaders need to make a long-term and broad commitment to these four practices to transform culture. 

Unleashing the Potential of Your Organization 

A culture of trust unleashes potential. It creates stronger relationships inside and outside the firm, eliminates silos, sparks ideas for innovation, and engages employees. Trust helps your company grow. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to build your trust and higher performance, or other ways you can take the simpler path to creating a great business, connect with us or consider attending one of our upcoming leadership events.