In today’s fast-paced organisations you, as a line manager or a business owner, want to get things done. You also want your people to succeed, both at work but also outside of work; in their personal lives. By doing so they can lead fulfilled lives, be happier and then in turn more productive at work. What’s the secret to all of this? Trust.  

I remember when I first started reading about the importance of trust in the ‘line manager – employee’ relationship and I thought it was all a bit too fluffy for me. After all, I wanted to see facts and data and measuring trust was not an easy thing to do. That said, psychologists have been focusing on trust and the impact that this has on both employees and organisations for years. Some call it the psychological contract, others refer to it as fit (although there is more to trust than just fit), others might even link it to McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. In a way we have been looking at trust for decades. 


But in reality what does it truly mean to trust someone at work?  

For me, it goes beyond saying to the individual that ‘hey, from now on, you know what – you can work on this as you like, because… I trust you.’ Saying it is by far not enough. So how do you build trust with your employees, because let’s face it I really and genuinely do not think that your business will be able to survive if you don’t trust your people. Here’s a few ideas:


1. Tell them what you’re trusting them with. You have to tell the person what is it that you’re trusting them with, as clearly as possible. This comes from you as a manager. You need to know what good looks like; not necessarily how to get there but what your expectations are, any timeframes etc. If they know they won’t just simply give you good, they’ll give you GREAT.  

2.  Give them complete responsibility over the process. It’s no use saying to somebody that you trust them about an outcome and then giving them a step by step overview of how they should get there. People work differently. Your employee performing a task in a way that is different to how you would do it doesn’t mean that they are going to obtain a worse results. If you are clear on what the outcome is then leave it up to the person to decide how they are going to get there. Then, ask them:  

3. How can I help you in getting there? That’s different to telling them how you’ve done it and what they should do. Even if the person says – how would you do it? Throw it back to them. Tell them that you value their opinion and it would be great to explore what resources they have and what they think they could do. Listen to what they say, don’t discount their opinion and try never to use the word ‘but’. Use ‘and’ instead to help soften add any comments you have.

4. Introduce them to people and ask how they’re getting on. What I find some people do is after having that initial conversation they never follow up with the person until it’s time for a review or appraisal. Trusting someone means checking that they’re okay and supporting them along the way. Again, it does not mean telling them what to do but listening to them.

5. Don’t put them down when they make mistakes. And they will. And most of those mistakes will be easily fixed and forgotten. Hopefully by having regular discussions with the individual the mistakes that they make will be limited, however when they do it’s worth focusing on how to overcome the issue rather than blame. A coaching-style conversation on what lessons have been learnt could be useful but it’s not the first thing to focus on. Acknowledge their efforts in getting the work done. 


I tried the above with an individual who I managed years ago and I’ve never gone back. When working with people I know ask myself what I can do so that they trust me. I focus on being clear, listening, supporting them on the way and celebrating the mistakes they’ve made as they showed engagement and effort.


How do you show employees that you trust them?