Extend Trust

Excerpt from the article

  1. Be the First to Extend Trust

A great way to earn trust is to extend trust. Managers are in a great position to role-model this by demonstrating, both verbally and nonverbally, that they trust their team members. So start with yourself; employees will often follow the lead if the behavior is genuine and consistent. – Jill Hauwiller, Leadership Refinery


 Over the last two months our Quick Tips have focused on how to create two-way trust between employees and leaders. Topics such as psychological safety, active listening, communication, humility, humor, and motivation have been examined. Through all these topics there has been one common thread:  trust must begin with the leader. Before leaders can expect certain behavior from their employees, they must model that behavior themselves.

Most people are familiar with the Trust Fall exercise, and it is a common team building activity used in education, corporate settings, and sports. In this exercise one teammate turns their back to the rest of the team, crosses their arms, and falls back freely into the arms of their teammates. Benefits from this exercise include increased teamwork, stronger relationships, greater awareness, and ultimately, improved trust. However, imagine if a team participated in this activity with their manager. Instead of simply falling back into the arms of teammates, this time, each person had to fall from a raised platform. Raising the platform a few feet into the air does not make this a life-or-death situation, but the stakes are higher, and senses are heightened. In this scenario, if the manager were to volunteer to go first, what kind of message would that send to the rest of the team? Most likely, the team would view this manager as someone who was willing to be vulnerable, take risks, and trust that the team would execute their individual roles to perfection because the manager’s well-being depended on it.

The Trust Fall example above might be a slight exaggeration, but it holds valuable truth. When leaders demonstrate trust in others before asking the team to trust them, it can have a lasting impact. One main way leaders can demonstrate trust in their employees is through self-disclosure. “Letting others know what you stand for, what you value, what you want, what you hope for, and what you are willing (and not willing) to do reveals information about yourself” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017). This type of vulnerability might not be reciprocated initially by your team, but it can certainly help encourage openness and unity. An example of self-disclosure when leading a new project could be demonstrated through a leader asking for help and expertise from teammates on what steps to take first. Another example could be a leader admitting that they do not have all the answers and need instructional guidance from those in the organization who have specialized knowledge in the specific topic in question. This idea ties directly into one of the tenants of High Reliability:  Deference to Expertise.  Asking for help and extending trust is not easy, but the good news is that it is contagious.

As mentioned in the first Quick Tip on two-trust, 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth (Zak, 2017). Hopefully, these two-way trust Quick Tips have provided helpful ideas to eliminate this lack of trust between leaders and employees. It is an issue that will take time to solve, but it starts with the leader. The leader must be the first to extend trust.


Forbes. (2021, April 9). 12 Techniques For Fostering Two-Way Trust With Employees. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/04/09/12-techniques-for-fostering-two-way-trust-with-employees/?sh=4ec745853a33

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2017). The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Zak, P. (2017, January). The Neuroscience of Trust. The Harvard Business Review, 84-90.

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