Building Trust Begins with You


Or, How to Be the Grownup in the Room


building trust leadershipAre you waiting for “the other person” at work to take the first step in building trust?

In the last newsletter, I wrote about the boss who trusted me to take on a major project in an area where I had no experience. He trusted that I had the inherent intelligence to figure out how to accomplish the desired outcome and knew that I would ask for guidance before exceeding my authority.


The reason I trusted “Brock,” and the reason that I accepted the challenge of this new project was . . . you guessed it. He trusted me.


Brock had already demonstrated that he kept both small and big promises. For instance, he kept the promise of providing a modest budget so I could take classes that were relevant to my job.


What if your boss or co-worker hasn’t taken steps to gain your trust?


This is where another valuable learning from my time reporting to Brock comes into play. While working in a toxic environment where mean-spirited people and public criticism were the norm, he taught me the art and value of “out-maturing them.”


Here is how I have come to understand and apply this term:


  • Take the first step toward being the grownup in the room, even if it doesn’t feel fair (This doesn’t mean coming across as smug or condescending.)
  • Set an example of authenticity, grace, and diplomacy
  • Do this even when you have deemed that the other person doesn’t necessarily deserve your best


An important caution: This approach doesn’t mean being a doormat. On the contrary, it means maintaining healthy boundaries, sometimes in the face of rudeness, bullying, lying and other bad behavior.


You will have a better chance of establishing trust with the team members who treat others respectfully when you have:


  • A clear idea of what you want out of your job and day-to-day interactions
  • A clear idea of the outcome you want when conflicts do arise
  • A willingness to surrender always being right
  • The courage to speak up appropriately when integrity is broken
  • The courage to be vulnerable when you are wrong, don’t know the answer, or want to try a new idea


In her bestselling book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”


Again, we are called upon to use common sense and refrain from trusting the people who have proven to have negative motivations, such as a lack of integrity, or gossiping.


That leaves many opportunities to take small steps toward building trust. Can you take a small step toward delegating more responsibility to a team member without micromanaging the process? Can you raise an idea with your manager that would make it easier for customers to do business with your company? What about finding ways to share information more efficiently with the department down the hall?


Try it sometime. Building trust starts with you.