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  • Michelle Kemp

Trust is the foundation to everything!

Merriam-Webster defines trust as an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. It is a noun that becomes a verb based on intentional investment in someone’s interests and well being; which in return keeps them engaged, honest, and loyal. For me,

  • My 5-year old son trusts that I will be there to encourage him when he is unsure, and that I have a plethora of Welch’s fruit snacks, Honest or Capri Sun juice, and PB&J sandwiches on deck at all times (Yes, my son is specific and brand-conscious about food.).

  • My tribe, aka friends and family, trust each other to be honest about ourselves in a way that illuminates who we are. We also challenge each other to become better human beings.

  • My team trusts that I respect them for their learned and natural talents and their expert opinion that will design the best solution to a problem.


For any of these relationships to be successful, but most importantly meaningful, it must be anchored in openness and trust.


So, as a leader, what does building trust look like in the workplace? First, it requires acknowledging that we are all human and unique in our own way. We are perfectly imperfect and will make mistakes, need corrective actions, but those experiences become learned lessons. That we, based on a detailed evaluation in the hiring process (you know that I have to mention this), are like-minded about purpose regardless of having different views and opinions. Once this is understood you can take deliberate actions in building trustworthy relationships at work.


Here are 4 quick tips:

  • Be mindful of your words (or speech) and actions. As leaders we can make the mistake of undermining or being dismissive of another team member due to differences of opinions, prioritizing what is urgent, stress from managing up, the list can go on. Based on self-awareness or reflection (and how you may have been perceived), you can identify the mistake from observing how the team’s affect and participation shifts. Once identified, own that mistake. Then name the intent behind the action to all who were impacted by your decision. This level of vulnerability will create a space to talk openly and be authentic. Apologies can’t hurt!

  • Saying “I trust you” goes a long way in building your team’s confidence. These three words with advisory support (not micromanagement), states that you trust their work, judgement, and accountability. This statement is earned through credibility.

  • Do as you say, and consistently follow through. Words have greater meaning when they are coupled with action. If you say you will do it, do it! This shows accountability and allows your team to trust that what you say will happen. Your team will follow practices that are modeled from your leadership -- good and bad, so follow through on expectations!

  • Invest in your team’s development. Invest in professional development to build a specific skill, or mentor/sponsor someone on your team. You are advocating for someone in a selfless way that empowers that person and team. This establishes loyalty.


As with any other relationship, establishing trust at work takes practice and time. The more intentional you are, the more you remove fear and judgment to increase engagement and productivity. And if you are questioning my reflection about trust and openness, then you may need to look in the mirror to see if you are trustworthy.



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