Leadership

Everyday Practices to Build Trust

As a leader (and as a person), your most valuable resource isn’t your money. It’s not your title. It’s not even your time. It’s trust.

Trust is the currency of relationships. It determines how much we’ll risk. Hard conversations, innovation, and healthy cultures are impossible without it. While earning trust pays dividends, it’s gradual work built on a foundation of a thousand little decisions.

Whether you’re leading a team, family, or other community, there are four simple practices you can leverage to boost your trustworthiness.

Align your words and your actions.

“I want to empower you,” “I trust you,” “I care about you,” and “I will fight for you” are among the most meaningful words you can say—if your actions say the same. When your actions don’t align with your words, you unintentionally practice a form of betrayal. You communicate that your words are empty.

Credibility is laid on the foundation of consistency.

Growth in this area will look different for each person. Maybe you’re prone to overpromising and need to simply bite your tongue. Maybe you need to commit to better recording and documenting action items you’ve agreed to. Maybe you need to allocate time or resources toward helping your team solve significant problems. Or maybe you need to take time to privately or publicly own a mistake.

Creating alignment between what you say and what you do is the essence of integrity. And integrity is essential for trust.

Focus on elevating others.

There’s a rule in improv that goes: “Make each other look good.” This saying captures a commitment to helping others succeed, joining in when they take risks, and actively providing support.

If only it were the motto everywhere else, too.

When you are committed to making those in your care look good, you communicate safety. Look for opportunities to highlight the contributions of those you lead. Speak highly of them privately and publicly. Draw attention to their success. Notice when an opportunity matches their skill sets, and invite them into projects or promotions they’re well-suited for.

These kinds of practices prove that you’re paying attention. They help your people feel seen. They are actionsthat say, “Your contributions matter, and I am committed to your good.”

Invite feedback on your leadership.

Honest communication is the lifeblood of relational health. It is essential for growth. But open communication is more risky in relationships of unequal power. To get the honest feedback you need, you’ll need to be intentional.

Try asking, “What can I do better as a leader?” or “What is one area you would like to see me grow?” If you’re a parent talking to your kids, you might try, “What is one way you wish I loved you differently?” or “What do you need from me that you’re not getting?”

Your response within these conversations is critical. Ask open-ended questions and listen attentively. Paraphrase and verify your understanding of the feedback, saying something like, “What I’m hearing you say is ________. Is that right?” State a concrete thing you could do differently. Avoid explaining yourself, and if you have important additional information, be careful not to dismiss the concern in the process of providing it.

Above all, say thank you. Remember: speaking up requires courage. It is a risk. And it’s a service that helps you grow. Welcoming feedback sends the message, “I want to be better. I am open to changing my behavior to better meet your needs.”

Prioritize clarity and accountability.

As a leader, your job is to make sure your team members know what is expected of them.

The anger and frustration that mark the onset of conflict are frequently markers of an unmet expectation. Expectations are rarely inherently right or wrong. They can be negotiable. But they must be understood and agreed upon by both parties to be helpful. Unspoken expectations are bound to go unmet.

However, once expectations are clear, accountability is essential. What you tolerate, not what you say, reflects your true standards. Your failure to confront unacceptable behavior communicates indifference to others impacted by the situation. The twin values of clarity and accountability create confidence because they define success and facilitate collaboration.

The best part? Trust spreads. When you leverage these practices, you’re sowing seeds of culture. One in which words have weight. In which making space for others and celebrating excellence is commonplace. In which feedback is welcomed and healthy dialogue is normal. In which expectations do not go unspoken and harmful behaviors do not go unchallenged.

You’re creating a space in which others can flourish and grow. And that is leadership at its best.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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