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Building and Maintaining Trust

Trust has become a larger and larger issue in organisations

According to Stephen M. R. Covey, in The Speed of Trust, only 51% of employees have trust and confidence in senior management and only 36% of employees believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity. John Whitney, of the Columbia Business School states that mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.

What is trust?

Here are some definitions:

  • Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability of a person or thing

  • Trust is confident expectation of something

  • Trust is confidence in the certainty of future payment for property or goods 

  • Trustworthy is a person on whom or a thing on which one relies

  • Trust is the condition of one to whom something has been entrusted

Trust is built in very small actions or moments.

It is not something that once established can then be ignored. It needs to be developed and nurtured on an ongoing basis.

Once lost, trust is not easily regained, but it isn't hard to maintain; it requires clear, continuous, open communication.

How to build trust

Be reliable

  • Do what you say you will

  • Honour all of your promises, including the small ones

Be honest

  • Tell the truth

  • If you have lied or misled, admit to it

  • Speak from the heart and express your feelings

Be open

  • Volunteer information

  • Don't omit important details

  • If there are boundaries of confidentiality/trust, state them

  • Don't mask truths or attempt to cover up situations

  • Demonstrate that you expect reciprocal openness

Keep confidences

  • Keep secrets imparted to you – no gossip

Show your integrity

  • Display loyalty

  • Be competent and consistent

  • Demonstrate a strong moral ethic

  • Do not choose sides until you are certain that you know the facts

  • Aim to be objective and show fairness


If you are in a position of leading others, realise that the leader accepts blame on behalf of the team and does not attempt to shift it onto other people. A leader is the role model and demonstrates the behaviours that he or she expects in others.

Practical steps towards building trust in a project team

  • Include representatives from all sides at the planning stage

  • Create a shared vision of what success will look like

  • Conduct a pre-mortem, bringing the stakeholders together and identifying what could go wrong

  • Develop strategies to avoid, mitigate or overcome potential problems

  • Agree – and practise – a “no surprises” rule

  • Agree – and practise – a “no blame” rule

  • Under promise and over deliver

  • Accept and expect accountability

  • Take responsibility for communication

  • Communicate without ceasing

  • Call time-outs and hold debriefs

  • What is happening/happened?

  • What is working/worked?

  • What isn’t working/didn’t work?

  • What can we learn?

  • Recognise and celebrate heroes and wins


Answer these questions:

Find recurring issues that repeatedly interfere with the performance of the team.

Write down rules that will support optimal behaviour and performance.

Brefi Group Limited

42 Holton Road

Barry CF63 4HD

United Kingdom

Reg. No. 1669333


Tel: +44 (0) 7970 891 343

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