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The Secret to Accountable Teams: Trust

Building a culture of trust among the members of your team can seem like an art. It takes time, effort, and intuition. And since there is no perfect recipe, this skill is not easy to master. So, how do you build trust in your team? A big part of the answer is in you.

Leading by example and building trust is done in three steps:

  • Show consideration and respect for others
  • Act with integrity and transparency
  • Honour your commitments

Show consideration and respect for others

In work teams, consideration and respect take many forms. It is about showing a genuine interest in others, their development, their well-being, and what motivates them about their job. It aligns work, recognition, and development with who they are. Here are a few examples:

One way to align work is by setting goals with SMART* criteria; in other words, assigning projects that are motivating and engaging.

To give recognition, you can acknowledge achievements in spontaneously and not just during annual performance reviews. If you time it well—for instance, by giving recognition in front of others and by being genuine and sincere—you can make a real impact and get the effect you’re looking for.

To align development, invite your employee to take part in a project that allows them to develop certain skills or that reflects their personal interests. Striking a balance between what the organization needs and what motivates the employee is the secret to success.

When their talents, skills, personality, interests, and motives are recognized, employees feel like they matter and are respected. They will in turn have more confidence in their manager.

*S = specific, M = measurable, A = attainable, R = relevant, T = time-based


Act with integrity and transparency

Every manager that I’ve met throughout my career has had to go back on their word at one point or another— either because of changes in the organization or because new information was uncovered. When this happens, the best thing you can do is give a clear explanation and admit that you made a mistake or that you didn’t have all the information at the time.

Some may think that you’re making excuses or that this makes you weak, but that’s not true! Explaining your reasoning or sharing the information that has changed your position is a sign of respect. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be disappointment, but it does send a message that you’re a person of integrity who acts with transparency, and that you have confidence in the other person being able to understand.

Ask yourself the following questions to take another step in the right direction:

Do you know yourself well enough to connect with your values? Do you know which situations you are especially sensitive to and that could change your objectivity? Are you able to talk about yourself in a real and authentic conversation? Are you comfortable being vulnerable? Are you the same person behind closed doors and no matter who you are with?


Honour your commitments

A commitment is like a moral contract that you enter into with your team, and it involves choices and responsibilities. In this contract, the first thing that will have an impact on whether your team trusts you is if you “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Keeping your promises and delivering on the tasks and mandates you’re responsible for creates a culture of accountability that starts with you. One of the first things you need to do is make sure your employees and the promises you made to them are your top priority. Your first promise should be one-on-one meetings every week. All too often, business needs relegate meetings with employees to second place. These moments dedicated to the people on your team should always be a priority. Putting them off or underestimating their importance undermines the trust of your people, and those people will understand that everything but them is important.


A word about a manager’s vulnerability

Through my many experiences coaching managers, I have come to realize that one of the hardest steps for them is to show vulnerability. In a recent mandate, a young manager confessed that, for her, a boss is that strong person who has all the answers. She added rhetorically, “Isn’t that why I got the job?” She was worried that if she brought up her concerns and appeared vulnerable, her team would think she was less credible. She felt compelled to fit into this mould.

We worked together to deconstruct this perception in order to build trust in her team. After a few work sessions, she reported that it was a success. During a meeting with one of her employees, he told her that he was struggling to find a healthy work-life balance. She decided to be vulnerable and opened up the conversation by saying that she understood because it was something that she too found difficult.

By sharing, she made her employee feel safe and confident enough to verbalize his situation. It also created a space for openness and understanding, so that together, they could find solutions and improve the situation. As a result, their relationship improved.

In closing, trust is an essential foundation for your well-being and that of your team. Taking the time today to sow seeds of trust in your team—to create and nurture relationships—will be that safety net that everyone uses when times get tough.

Leading a Team with Courage and Empathy

Assist your team managers in taking ownership of the skills essential to their role and to the efficient management of their teams.

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Louise Clément Adm.A., MBA
  • Quebec City Market Leader – Senior Consultant
    Leadership & Team Development

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