This post is by Mike Henry, founding instigator of the Lead Change Group, where they’re instigating a leadership revolution. He’s @mikehenrysr on Twitter and is also active on LinkedIn.

Trust is flexibility. It allows you to achieve more than you ever thought you could. Trust lubricates relationships and provides freedom of movement necessary for great team achievements.

Without trust, just like the moving parts of a car, your team will either break down or rust. If you continue to attempt great achievements, friction between members will cause the team to overheat and lock up. If you give in to the inertia, your team will simply coast until it stops and begins to rust. Either way, achievements will just become too difficult. At critical moments, someone won’t be available or misfortune will mysteriously occur.

To avoid either the breakdown or the rust out, you must do things to keep the parts working together and maintain flexibility.

  1. Give Win First. No one ever created a win-win relationship without letting the other person win first. If you refuse to let the other person win, you force everyone to contract and withdraw.
  2. Listen and learn. Attention, focus and time are scarce commodities. Consider how much (or little) time you spend focused on a single activity or person. Actively listen to others and work to understand them twice as long as normal today.
  3. Appreciate and value others. Simply forcing yourself to listen and focus doesn’t mean you will learn. Appreciation is the point at which you engage. Bring energy to maintain the connection with others out of your own internal desire. Appreciating and valuing another person builds trust. (Hat tip: Monica Diaz’s book “Otheresteem.”)
  4. Remember what you hear and see. If you appreciate something, you will process and consider it in a way that will help you remember. As you remember what you hear and see, others rest more in their understanding of you, and that builds trust.
  5. Trust others. Nothing betrays trust more than the lack of trust. Most often, people who won’t trust others do so because they can’t be trusted either. If you would never steal from someone else, why are you always afraid the other person will steal from you? Trust first.
  6. Find solutions. Begin with the belief that the other person can succeed. Don’t tell them their idea won’t work. Help create ways to make them successful.
  7. Make a sacrifice. Sometimes the solution to someone else’s problem is a sacrifice on your part. Be willing to be the solution to your teammate’s problems.
  8. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t make the same mistake twice. People will forgive errors made by genuine people attempting to do the right thing. Work hard to avoid repeat mistakes.
  9. Make it right. Even though errors can erode trust, you build trust when you fix a mistake well. Be proactive and do the right thing.
  10. Give generous credit and praise. People want to matter. If you help people be important and valuable, you become valuable.
  11. Do what you say. It all comes down to this. If you are not capable of delivering, people will like you but not trust you to lead.

Act like an owner and take care of your team. If you don’t do the routine maintenance, your team won’t be able to perform when the opportunity arises.

What other routine maintenance tips could you offer?

Image credit: photoiron via

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27 responses to “11 ways to build trust within your team”

  1. […] revolution. ← Prescriptions for Two Common Management Weaknesses Link11 Ways To Build Trust Within Your Team By Mike Henry in July 19th 2011   No Comment » Filed Under […]

  2. Cathy Paper says:

    These are great ideas to build trust. It can go away in a second with an easy mistake. And it is the most powerful weapon great teams have against the competition.

  3. Shawn Murphy says:

    These are essential elements in deed! What strikes me right now is how the absence of any of elements or actions you listed doesn't trigger more action to remedy the deteriorating environment caused by lack of trust.

    I'd be delighted to hear how leaders, positional or individual contributors, are inspired by your list and make concerted effort to build or sustain trust amongst team members.

  4. I love the list, and if I were going to highlight it I would pull out Give Trust and Do What You Say. Trust isn't such a simple topic to have a roadmap to success, but these two jump out at me.

    Maybe the one I would add would be Be Transparent about How You Trust. By that I mean share with people what your rules are and what situations you have experience where trust was easy and where it did not work. I call it a Trust Map when I do it in groups, and the simple act of sharing this goes a long ways. Great post.

  5. knowledgebishop says:

    This is a fantastic post, Mike. I especially enjoy the reminder that "appreciating and valuing another person builds trust." Gratitude, expressed, is among the best ways to build connection.

  6. Mike,

    While I like all of your tips, #11 really stands out for me. In order for people to follow a leader, they must *trust* that the person they're following can deliver. I've known some really wonderful people who I still didn't trust to get the job done. Nothing was amiss about their personality or their ethics and I genuinely liked them as people. However, if they didn't have the ability to execute, then there was a bit of hesitation on my part to "board the bus" with them.

  7. Mike Henry Sr. says:

    Agreed, Cathy. thanks for the comment!

  8. Mike Henry Sr. says:

    Great add on Shawn. Sounds like the groundwork for another post!

  9. Great post….for me I personally like "learn from your mistakes" … it's a simple lesson but a lesson that many leaders often overlook! I look forward to reading more of your blogs

  10. David Aseer says:

    Amazing article.. thanks for the write up ..
    I would also say .. "Connect before you Correct"

  11. Shahram Khorsand says:

    Very interesting blog! Working as a sales manager with a team, I completely agree with you.
    I guess what is interesting is the fact of having reciprocity in the team. Also, removing prestige is as well important.
    Great blog, I have saved it for later reference.
    Looking forward to more in the subject.

  12. So love your post… I would say I agree with all the points that you expressed here in your blog. Trust is one the the most important in everything, whether in a relationship to your loved ones or even on your team. You should all have trust to each other and be united…Anyway, thanks for sharing!!!

  13. […] wrote a post yesterday that ran on Smartblog on Leadership entitled 11 Ways to Build Trust Within Your Team.  If you get a chance, check it out for a positive spin on building […]

  14. Learn from your mistakes…..I think this is a great point to make and one that many of us neglect to do

  15. Susan Mazza says:

    Timeless wisdom said simply and even simple to do if you are willing to pay attention and live from the principle of "if it's to be it's up to me". Excellent Mike.

  16. lola says:

    Great blog, thanks for all your contributions.
    If you rejoice in the creativity of others (“What will they think of next!”) then you will find yourself interesting in and having new ideas. (buddhist thought)

  17. […] e é importante que toda equipe esteja envolvida neste processo. O listou 11 lições que os gestores podem aprender sobre confiança, confira […]

  18. […] e é importante que toda equipe esteja envolvida neste processo. O listou 11 lições que os gestores podem aprender sobre confiança, confira […]

  19. I really appreciate the list and will hang it next to my desk. I might add the concept of Being Fair and Consistent. People trust you when they know that you are fair to all and that you perform consistently. By being consistent, co-workers and direct reports will be able to know how you would handle a problem or issue without having to ask you. As a doctor, I have to adhere to laws, standards of care, and morals and ethics that guide all of my decisions and actions within our best practices philosophy of care. My practice is always more successful if patients and staff are in harmony with my consistency of execution. Trust then builds loyalty and adds to the challenge of creating a "wow" experience. Raymond J Brill, OD, MBA, FAAO, FOAA CEO, Brill Eye Center, LLC

  20. Andrea Howe says:

    This is a great list, Mike. Somehow I never tire of lists! I'd add "Be willing to be messy." What I mean by that is be willing to be a real human being–someone who doesn't always know the answers, who sometimes goofs, who above all else is willing to step up and risk failing if that's what it takes to move the team forward–all that with a commitment to being accountable and making a difference. Easier said than done!

  21. […] Henry has 11 ways to build trust within your team. He starts off by comparing trust to oil. […]