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Earning the Trust of Your Employees – a Crucial Element for Efficient Leadership

Trust is essential if one is to have solid, viable, fruitful and long-lasting relationships – this is a truth we all know and accept. We need to trust and be trusted by our family members and friends and we need to be able to trust and to be trusted by our employees, co-workers, managers and business partners as well. Trust is of the essence in formal and informal, in vertical and horizontal relationships, alike and the more competitive the context, the more difficult it becomes to earn and to give that trust.

earning employee trust

Image by Ibrahim Iujaz

In business communication, both inside the company and in the relationship with our partners, holding or losing trust can be synonymous with the success or the failure of the enterprise. Unfortunately, numerous managers fail to see the importance of earning the trust of their employees. Some of them do their best to win the trust of their business partners, while acting incoherently, sometimes even immorally towards the members of their own team, without even realising that confused, demotivated and insecure employees can only do more harm to the company than good.

As a manager, earning and keeping the trust of your team is a complex, often difficult process that is impossible to see through without soul searching and self-recognition – and actions to follow the conclusions. A trusted leader is always a person who is authentic, who displays integrity, who respects others and can be respected, features that are synthesised into complex behaviour and relationship patterns.

Establishing Relationships

Relationships are established through communication, which is a two-way process. We all know the boss who is making enunciation’s instead of talking and listening, the boss that is rather feared than respected and trusted, the boss who fails to provide the amount of information necessary for performing a certain task, giving incoherent orders instead.

Employees will respect and trust authoritative leaders, but not managers who fail to listen and to respond. Adjusting one’s view to the opinion of others, being flexible and sensitive to other people’s opinions will not hinder a leader’s image, but, on the contrary, it will make that boss more authentic and more respected.

Being Credible

A good manager leads by example. Leaders who promise only what they can actually do and who really deliver on their promises on a timely manner are trusted by their teams.

As managers are supposed to get things done by delegating tasks to their team members, the trust should be mutual – leaders depend on their teams for efficient performance, so they need to be able to rely on their teams, but untrusted leaders are either ignored, or their orders are obeyed only due to the power positions they are holding (which, long-term, will not lead to anything good).

Being Able to Handle Difficult Issues Diplomatically

Managers are almost constantly in decision-making situations: they need to handle issues inside the team, they need to manage the team in a way so as to achieve their targets, and they need to report about the team’s achievements towards higher management or the board. In other words, they need to represent both the interests of the company towards the employees and the interests of the team towards the higher management or the board – a role impossible to achieve without a certain sense of diplomacy. If the employees will see that their manager is able and willing to fight for them, cohesion and trust will grow inside the team as well, which will be beneficial for the performance of the whole team.

Two-way communication, credibility, and diplomacy – these are all elements necessary if a leader is to earn the trust of his or her team. To achieve all this, leaders need self-awareness, a thorough knowledge of their own strong points and shortcomings and a willingness to change, improve and adjust, while also maintaining integrity and firmness in both problem solving and in the delegation of tasks.

About the Author: This is a blog post by Fred Schebesta; one of the directors of and operating He writes passionately about small business, hiring and strategy.

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This article is one of the excellent contributions from small business owners, decision makers and professionals.

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  • Heather,

    Very true – no employee, no business. Period. (unless you are a one-man business hiring no one, not even a freelancer) :)

  • Angel Biz Advisors,

    A cliche, indeed – but that’s the essence of leadership… there’s no better leadership than leading by example :)

  • Hannah,

    I agree. However, not we can’t win every employee. Some employees are there just to bully other employees and pit them to against each other – it’s very challenging to win the trust of such employees; it’s not impossible, though :)

  • Lots of people are writing about the importance of employees in small businesses these days…and with good reason. Who is creating value in your business? Who is doing the heavy lifting? Treat these people well, learn to lead them well, and your business will thrive.

  • Fred – Great point.A leader is no one if he does not have the trust and respect of his employees. He simply will not get support from his employees to achieve his goals.

    I know it’s a cliche, but the leader has to lad by example. You cannot expect your employees to follow you if you yourself are not prepared to do the same.

  • Being a good boss is not necessarily means growing your business but it’s also about how you motivate your employees and how you manage to have a friendly environment yet still maintain respect in the workplace. :)

  • Good post. Managers who treat employees the way they want to be treated themselves will gain the respect and trust of their employees. A good boss is a wonderful thing!