Three Steps to Rebuilding Trust Within Your Team

Key Takeways:

  • Communicate at all times
  • Follow through on your word
  • Live your values without compromise

Have you ever been in a situation, within your control or not, when you have lost trust with your team?

Perhaps it was a leader senior to you that made some decisions that affected you and your colleagues. Maybe you had your own moment of being a flawed human being that ended up affecting your team and damaging trust. Even with the most positive intent, things can still go wrong.

It feels awful, right? If it feels that way to you, imagine how your team must feel. How on earth are you ever going to recover from this and gain that trust back? Fortunately, not all is lost, and there are things you can do to rebuild that trust.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Trust is the foundation of any team. Without it, you can’t fully build the high-performing team you know you need. Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team1 clearly calls this out, noting that healthy conflict, commitment, accountability and results cannot be achieved without trust. While some teams are starting from the beginning and building trust, others have a more challenging road ahead of them to rebuild trust that was there and is now lost.

Here are some tips to rebuild trust, but realize that this takes time.

1 – Communicate and Be Transparent

Trust is often broken because your team doesn’t get the communication they need.  In the absence of communication, people make up their own stories. Those stories are often rooted in rumors and speculation, not fact. As a leader, open communication is critical.  Even if you don’t know something, say that. “I’m not sure yet,” “I’ll let you know as soon as I have more information” or something similar is better than not communicating at all. Then, actually follow through. Which brings us to #2…

2 – Keep Your Word and Lead by Example

Be clear in communication, and if you make a commitment, keep it. Do what you say you will do. Repeating this behavior will rebuild trust. Don’t keep your word, and watch how fast the damage to trust can happen. Nothing will do more harm than not keeping promises or being dishonest. Link it back to what you communicated. For example: “Last week I told you I would let you know when I had more information.  Today, I have more to share with you.”

3 – Recommit to Your Values

Most companies have some stated values that they intend to follow, and as a leader, you certainly have your personal values too. When trust has been damaged, those values have been compromised in some way. We have values for a reason. They guide our behavior and serve as a way to check ourselves when we are going off track. While rebuilding trust, put the lens on to focus on your values too. If integrity is one of those values, for example, are you going through your day and making decisions with this being top of mind? You will need to be deliberate about it, but the payoff is helping your team trust again.

When trust is damaged or destroyed with your team, the process to rebuild will often be painful, humbling and time consuming. Having the patience and commitment to work through it is necessary.

It bears repeating that it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.


1- “Five Dysfunctions of a Team:  A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni


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