Whether due to layoffs, poor team culture, or outside events, most leaders will be required to do the hard work of rebuilding trust on their team at some point in their careers. 

Trust is the glue that holds a team together. Teams who trust one another are able to accomplish much more than those for whom trust is a challenge. Bickering, petty disagreements, and the inability to make decisions are almost always the hallmarks of these teams.

If you’ve identified that trust is an issue for your team, that’s a great start. Unfortunately, the cure isn’t as simple as telling people to trust one another or engaging in a few team building activities. Rebuilding broken trust requires real work, but if done consistently can produce significant rewards. Here’s how to start…

1. Meet the team where they are.

For leaders, dealing with a team’s mistrust of one another can be frustrating. You may or may not agree with why they feel they can’t trust one another. You probably wish you didn’t have to address what feels like a distraction from your larger business goals. But, to effectively rebuild the trust among your team, you must meet them where they are.

This means acknowledging openly to the team that there is a challenge around trust. Give them a chance to share freely what they see as the issue and their suggestions for moving forward. Instead of responding with the canned “I hear you”, ask questions and summarize their perspective to show that you are really absorbing what they are saying. Just engaging with your team more authentically like this can help resolve some of the problem.

2. Welcome the hard questions.

Often we shy away from encouraging our people to ask questions because we know some of those questions will be truly challenging. They may raise topics that are fraught with conflict. Worse yet, they may ask us for things we don’t know or aren’t at liberty to share at the moment.

But, if you’re serious about rebuilding the trust on your team, you have to learn to welcome the hard questions. You have to boost your ability to deal with anxiety and conflict among your team well enough that you can weather inquiry with honesty and authenticity. Doing so will let the team know that they can truly raise any issue without fear of your response. This knowledge will help to create the trust you’re seeking.

3. Admit your mistakes.

It can be especially difficult to rebuild trust when it was damaged because of something you did, either intentionally or unintentionally. Many of us fear that admitting to our team that we made a mistake will undercut our credibility. But, nothing could be further from the truth.

No matter how much we try to hide it, people know we are human. They know we’ve made mistakes…and likely will again. Taking ownership for these mistakes and assuring people that you recognize where you went wrong goes much further toward instilling confidence in your leadership and healing any damage done than sweeping them under the rug ever could.

4. Build a predictable rhythm of communication.

Once you’ve righted the ship and the team is regaining their ability to trust you and each other again, it can be easy to lose your sense of urgency. But, at this point it is absolutely crucial that you continue to communicate. People who are rebuilding trust need to hear from their leaders often. Just as importantly, they need to know that they can count on those communications. Establishing a repeated rhythm of communication gives team members one more thing they can rely on. And doing what you say with regard to communicating reinforces that you can be counted on.

Rebuilding trust is a process – one that requires consistency, patience and time. But, it is not an impossible task and it will return great benefits in the long run.


Facing a challenge on your own teams? Not sure where to get started in rebuilding trust among your people? Interested to know how we can help? Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation.