How to build trust in your team

By Victoria Fellows


For a business to be successful, its employees must have faith in the leadership as well as their colleagues. A lack of trust in one’s peers means a lack of motivation and inspiration to put effort into their work. 

In a study carried out by MIT Sloan Business School, the importance of a high-trust company culture was demonstrated. It found that trusting employees: 

  • Are 260% more motivated to work 
  • Exhibit 41% lower rates of absenteeism 
  • Are 50% less likely to look for another job 

While these statistics are compelling, not every business is getting it right. The same research reported: 

  • Around one in four workers don’t trust their employer 
  • Most employers overestimate the trust level of their workforce by almost 40% 

So, understanding the importance of trust for a more productive and effective team isn’t the same as building it into your workplace. The question is this: how do leaders inspire their teams and instil a sense of trust? In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the common management behaviours found in businesses that report high levels of trust and productivity. 

1. Understand the perks of stress 

Stress is often seen as a detriment to our employees, but having the right amount of stress can actually be a benefit. The goal is to identify the differences between what is perceived as a challenge and a threat. Challenges can encourage favourable emotions and increase performance, whereas threats do the opposite and limit our capabilities. 

Take deadlines, for example. When they are properly set, taking into account the realistic amounts of time and work required, they can be hugely motivating. Long open-ended projects are never finished in a timely manner, as there needs to be a certain amount of stress associated with a deadline to spur employees on. 

2. Give your employees more autonomy

Your employees are the experts when it comes to the work they’ve been assigned. By giving them more autonomy in how they carry out their work, it helps boost their motivation and shows that you trust their decision making. 

That doesn’t mean giving them 100% free rein, but letting them set their own deadlines, choose their presentation style and decide on the colleagues they will work with, are good places to start. This approach also allows for varied viewpoints to be considered and can revolutionise how businesses operate. 

3. Take a holistic approach to growth 

Your employees are human beings that have their own commitments and problems. Take a holistic approach to their growth by helping them acquire new skills while tackling their personal issues to help them grow as a human and not just an employee of your business. 

Lean into the interests employees show, even if it’s away from their core responsibilities. Promote opportunities for departments to interact more freely and even consider periods where staff experience another part of the business to improve understanding of the whole operation. 

4. Share information and be transparent 

Keeping your employees informed can help establish a sense of trust. Sharing your company’s goals, future plans and strategies reduces the sense of uncertainty in your employees. It also helps to improve direct communications between employees and encourages teamwork when everyone is informed. 

Building a schedule of quarterly meetings, for example, can help to keep employees informed about where the business is at. As well as presenting stats and figures to them, be sure to build in time for the questions they’d like answered for a more effective use of the opportunity. 

5. Recognise employees that are performing well 

Recognition has one of the largest effects on trust, especially if it occurs immediately after your employees hit a milestone. Public recognition can boost your company’s morale and motivation by celebrating success, and it also helps identify excellence in your workplace so those employees can serve as role models to learn from. 

What recognition looks like can vary depending on the nature of your workforce, but there are a few things to keep in mind. It should be honest and fairly handed out to all those who deserve it, especially if a project has involved a number of people. Recognition should also be individualised, otherwise its impact can be diluted. 


No two businesses are the same and it’s important to understand that the approach you take might not necessarily be an effective method for another company. However, instilling trust is often based around treating employees well, listening to their concerns and helping them develop a sense of purpose in the workplace. 

It’s not something that can be implemented overnight. Businesses cannot fake a company culture built on trust but must cultivate it over time and ensure every action from management - whether small or large - contributes to a wider sense of confidence and collaboration in the workforce as a whole. 

For more information or to discuss this further, please contact me - 

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