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    Building and Sustaining Trust
Quick Tips

Demonstrate behaviors that build trust.
  • Foster open communication.
  • Be reliable and consistent.
  • Treat everyone with respect and fairness.
  • Show confidence in others.
Let others see "the inner you" to show you trust them and to encourage them to trust you.
  • Share your inner thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and reasons to let people know that you trust them.
  • Explain how you use your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses.
  • Disclose your vulnerabilities and imperfections.
  • Share some decisions you've made—and the reasons for them—that have led to unwanted or unanticipated outcomes.
Express empathy to encourage people to open up to you.
  • Listen to understand and to show you value what others have to say.
  • Give your full, undivided attention.
  • Listen for both facts and feelings—what the person is saying and the emotions he or she is expressing.
  • Articulate the person's feelings to encourage him or her to share more.

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Falling into trust-breaking behavior.
If you aren't aware of behavior that has the potential to break trust, you might:
  • Break promises.
  • Serve your own interests instead of others'.
  • Act inconsistently, which confuses people and causes distrust.
  • Avoid issues that should be addressed.
  • Make assumptions.
  • Doubt others.
Dismissing a person's thoughts and feelings.
If you don't respond with empathy when a person is expressing thoughts and feelings, you won't be able to:
  • Encourage the person to open up.
  • Direct the conversation toward sensitive topics that need to be addressed.
  • Make the person feel safe expressing his or her feelings and the reasons for them.
  • Build rapport.
  • Establish or strengthen open, two-way communication.
Avoiding the high-payoff risk of personal disclosure.
If you don't risk admitting mistakes or weaknesses, your team and others might:
  • Lose confidence in sharing their feelings with you.
  • Think you expect unrealistic perfection from them.
  • Distrust your honesty or even your integrity.
Cutting a person short.
Offering advice or your own story too early in a conversation, however well-intentioned, can:
  • Turn the focus away from the person and onto you.
  • Send the message that the person's feelings are less important than yours.
  • Cause a person to stop sharing altogether.

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Articles and Books


Beddoes-Jones, F. (2012, August). "Authentic Leadership: The Key to Building Trust." People Management, 44–47.

The article focuses on authentic leadership and the development of employee trust, with emphasis on a study of recent research by the professional association Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development. That research found that leaders who display humanity and integrity, who are fundamentally trustworthy, and who allow their direct reports to get to know them are necessary for building effective organizations. The writer used 360-degree questionnaires to analyze authentic leadership in 54 senior Royal Air Force officers.

Gentile, M.C. (2010, March). "Managing Yourself: Keeping Your Colleagues Honest." Harvard Business Review, 88(2), 114–117.

The article focuses on behavior at work that compromises ethical corporate culture and how to promote honesty in the workplace. Examples are given of unethical behavior or situations and the potential consequences in terms of financial, social, or legal costs. The writer refers to her research on social psychology and decision making and offers her insight on building a strong organization. Four rationalizations for why employees remain silent when they encounter an ethical problem include the ideas that the behavior is standard practice and it is not their responsibility to do anything about it. Advice is given to managers that will guide them in confronting a problem by treating it as a business matter and speaking up about it.

Pennington, R.G. (2012, February). "Trust Is an Action Verb: While You May Think You Are a Trustworthy Manager, Your Actions May Communicate Otherwise to Your Employees." HR Magazine, 90–91.

The article discusses employees' trust of managers. It provides several pieces of advice for managers for building trust, including following through, being consistent, and improving. The writer also emphasizes communicating expectations and values. The importance of managers in standing up for their teams also is emphasized.

Savitt, M.P. (2011, December). "Strengthening Managerial Relationships." Chief Learning Officer, 10(12), 26–29.

The article discusses ways in which executives and managers can improve their relationships with their employees. The writer suggests that close relationships can lead to improved performance, engagement, and collaboration, and suggests that leaders should build trust with their employees, become good listeners, and deliver feedback effectively.

Shelton, C. (2010, April). "Trust-Powered Leadership." Leadership Excellence, 27(4), 20.

The writer discusses the importance of keeping one's word. He states that it is the key to building trust. He considers trust as a marketable commodity because it ensures business, productivity, and loyalty. Failure to keep promises implies the breaking of a contract, which translates into poor performance and loss of customers. It suggests that leaders prioritize four promises, including making promises matter, keeping those promises, and committing one's self to those that create reciprocity.


Cloud, H. (2006). Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality. New York: HarperCollins.

Integrity is more than simple honesty; it's actually the key to success. A person with integrity has the ability to pull everything together, to succeed despite challenging circumstances. Drawing on experiences from his work, Dr. Henry Cloud, a clinical psychologist, leadership coach, corporate consultant, and nationally syndicated radio host, shows how people's character can keep them from achieving all they want to be.

Covey, S.R. (with Merrill, R.R.). (2006). The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. New York: Free Press.

Some have said that trust is the very basis of the new global economy. This book shows how trust—and the speed at which it is established with clients, employees, and constituents—is the essential ingredient for any high-performance, successful organization. For business leaders and public figures in any arena, The Speed of Trust offers an unprecedented and eminently practical look at exactly how trust functions in our every transaction and relationship—from the most personal to the broadest, most indirect interaction—and how to establish trust immediately so that you and your organization can forego the time-killing, bureaucratic check-and-balance processes so often deployed in lieu of actual trust.

Horsager, D. (2009). The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line. New York: Free Press.

Based on research that has been adapted to be practical for today's leader, The Trust Edge shows that trust is quantifiable and brings dramatic results to businesses and leaders. When leaders learn how to implement trust, they enjoy better relationships, reputations, retention, revenue, and results. Fascinating and timely, this book unveils how trust has the ability to either accelerate or destroy any business, organization, or relationship. The lower the trust, the more time everything takes, the more everything costs, and the lower the loyalty of everyone involved. Conversely, an environment of trust leads to greater innovation, morale, and productivity: The trusted leader is followed, people buy from the trusted salesperson, and people will pay more for the trusted brand, return with their business, and tell others about it. Trust—not money—is the currency of business and life.

Killinger, B. (2007). Integrity: Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason. Toronto: McGill-Queen's University Press.

In a world in which fraudulent acts and corporate scandals are common news, society has become increasingly concerned over the deterioration in moral and ethical values. Best-selling author and psychologist Barbara Killinger explores the loss of basic integrity and offers practical techniques for developing and maintaining integrity in a culture that sometimes challenges it. Drawing on her clinical practice and pioneering efforts in workaholism, Dr. Killinger describes the personality traits and psychological, philosophical, historical, and familial influences that can help develop and maintain integrity. She also looks at how integrity has been undermined and lost as a result of obsession, narcissism, and workaholism. Richly illustrated with personal stories, Integrity offers a positive "how to" perspective on safeguarding personal and professional integrity and on encouraging our children to develop this vital character trait. Killinger concludes that integrity is not possible without compassion and makes it clear that doing the right thing includes doing it for the right reason.

Lyman, A. (2012). The Trustworthy Leader: Leveraging the Power of Trust to Transform Your Organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

The Trustworthy Leader reveals the benefits organizations enjoy when trustworthy behavior is practiced consistently by their leaders. Drawing from examples from the Best Companies to Work For, Lyman, cofounder of The Great Place to Work® Institute, explains that being trustworthy means that leaders' behaviors are rooted in their commitment to the value of trust and not simply in an imitation of the practices of others. She identifies six elements that reflect a leader's trustworthiness: honor, inclusion, engaging followers, sharing information, developing others, and moving through uncertainty to pursue opportunities.

Reina, D.S., & Reina, M.L. (2010). Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace: Seven Steps to Renew Confidence, Commitment, and Energy. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Broken trust is the natural outcome of people interacting with one another. Everyone has experienced gossiping, missed deadlines, someone taking credit for others' work, and "little white lies" that have spread. People may have been emotionally hurt, realized that they inadvertently let others down, or be wondering how to help others who are reeling from broken trust. This book offers a seven-step process to heal pain and rebuild trust. This compassionate, practical approach will help people reframe their experience, take responsibility, forgive, let go, and move on. Through healing, a person will want to return to work, give the organization their best thinking, highest intention, and creativity, and be willing to take risks.

Rogers, R.W., & Riddle, S. (2003). Trust in the Workplace. (Monograph No. MKTCPMIS150). Pittsburgh, PA: DDI Press.

Recent global economic conditions and events beyond the business world have left workers wondering whom they can believe. Many have lost not only their jobs, but also their entire retirement savings as well. As a result, establishing or strengthening trust between employees and leaders might well be the most important role of leaders today. Written by DDI's COO, Robert Rogers, this monograph identifies five crucial areas that have a direct impact on the level of trust people have in their organization.

Whipple, R. (2006). Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Hilton, NY: Productivity Publications.

Ideas in this book will help its followers every time they send or receive an electronic message, whether at work or at home. Readers will learn to read between the lines in all forms of incoming electronic communications and ensure their outgoing messages convey their true intentions and are politically appropriate. This book also teaches people how to avoid the escalating and embarrassing "e-mail grenade" battles that are prevalent online. The author provides many tips for managing people's electronic inbox to avoid overload and "e-burnout." Understanding E-body Language will forever change how people view e-mail, while making their online communications easier and more effective.

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