How To Build Trust in Two Simple, Yet Not Always Easy Steps

At SGEi, we define leadership as the ability to inspire the hearts and minds of people to want to be their best, do what you want them to do, and be who you need them to be.

Most leaders would agree that in order to truly inspire the hearts and minds of people, a relationship must first be established. Many would also agree that before a relationship of any kind is formed, the parties involved have to trust one another.

Unless or until leaders are successful in building trust among the team, especially with each individual they lead, few relationships blossom. Without thriving relationships, teams and the individuals on them rarely become inspired. If people aren’t inspired, they simply will never become the best they can be. A leader’s role is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

More often than not, the gap between where a leader’s relationships should be and where they could be usually has to do with a lack of trust.

Amidst the hustle, expectations, and pressures of everyday life in and outside of the office, leaders can reverse engineer the ever-allusive task of relationship-building by focusing on two simple, yet not always easy components to establishing trust: Respect and Credibility.

Before a leader can establish trust, he or she must first gain respect and credibility.


Just because we have a title, doesn’t mean everyone automatically respects us, as a leader. Just like Tony Soprano told Richie Aprile, in Season 2 of The Sopranos, “Those who want respect, give respect.” This is so true in real life as well!

For any coach, executive, manager, or leader at any level, the quickest way to gain the respect of those on your team is to simply respect them first. It sounds simple, but it’s so often missed. As pressure builds and the tediousness of the grind mounts up, leaders are often tempted to react to people on their teams with curt, short responses either via email or in conversations. Impatience often gives way to pseudo-listening instead of empathetic listening. Far too often, as leaders’ calendars fill up, quality one on one time with individuals on their teams is the first thing to get cut out of their schedule. Where does that leave the relationship?

Each of these examples, standing alone, may not be the end of the world. However, as one builds on the other, compounding day after day, curt email after curt email, people feel disrespected by their leader. On the other hand, when leaders make effective communication – productive dialogue as opposed to condescending monologues – the priority, they show their teams respect. When leaders seek to understand how employees are feeling, it not only gives them greater insight into how they can help them become their absolute best, it once again shows respect.

When people feel respected, they will respect their leader. When leaders gain respect, they’re on their way to building a meaningful relationship, which is the gasoline-on-a-fire equivalent to sparking the very inspiration that propels anyone to becoming their best.


John Maxwell said, “Leadership without followers is just a long walk by yourself.” When leaders say one thing but then do the opposite, it gives people pause; especially those on their team.

For example, when employees see or hear their leader profess the importance of ethical business practices and then witness them being less than ethical in their own life or work, the leader immediately loses credibility with the team. When a leader attempts to give feedback to their employees and then is seen saying or doing the very thing he or she “coached” their team not to do, the leader once again loses credibility.

It may sound cliché, but integrity is a timeless “leadership classic” for a reason. Leadership development consultants, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, completed a study of 300,000 leaders, which revealed the top ten traits for success. No surprise, “inspires and motivates others” was first on the list. “Displays high integrity and honesty” ranked a close second.

The extent to which any leader actually does what they say they’re going to do impacts their level of credibility with their team, peers, partners, and even customers. Simply put, the quickest way for leaders to gain credibility with their teams is to walk their talk. The number one spectator sport in any industry is “Boss Watching”. Everyone is watching and listening to what leaders say or don’t say; do or don’t do, at all times.

When people witness, first-hand, their leader following through on commitments, practicing what he or she preaches, and simply walking the talk, the leader becomes credible. Why is that important? The more credible the leader, the more likely it is that he or she will turn around on any given day and see a long line of people ready and willing to follow them.

Bringing it all together

The goal of leadership is to inspire the hearts and minds of people to want to become the absolute best they can be. Few will be inspired without thriving relationships with the people around them in or outside the office. Even fewer relationships will materialize without trust.

Build trust with respect and credibility.

Show those around you just how much you respect them:

  • Make time to meet with them, 1:1 on a regular basis.
  • Listen. Practice empathetic listening, and genuinely seek to understand how they feel.
  • Be kind and compassionate, showing you care about their well-being today and in the future.

Walk your talk, and become a credible person worthy of following:

  • Do what you say you’re going to do.
  • Follow through on commitments, big and small; especially the small ones. They sometimes mean the most.
  • Be the change you’ve set out to inspire among your team and in the world.

Have a great day.


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