Creating Trust in the Workplace is Essential to the Employee Experience

By Lisa Rike, CPBA for Mobius Vendor Partners

It would be hard to find someone who does not believe in the value of trust. Trust is about being trusted by others and being able to trust others.

Both sides are essential for a culture where legitimate trust exists. The question though is how do you define it? How does trust manifest itself in the people you trust at work? It might be in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone. That textbook definition is a common view. Is it the “end all be all” definition though? Recognizing that trust is the footing from which cultures grow, relationships are built and innovation flourishes consider the following influences to trust.


Patrick Lencioni is an American author of books on business management, particularly in relation to team management. He explains the source of trust this way, “Trust lies at the heart of a great team, and a leader must set the stage for that trust by being genuinely vulnerable with his or her team members.” Vulnerability stands out as a catalyst to developing trust.

He continues to say “The vulnerabilities I’m referring to include weaknesses, skill deficiencies, interpersonal shortcomings, mistakes and requests for help.”

It does not mean we are off the hook for things if they fall in our shortcomings. It means we acknowledge it to others and figure out how to proceed by asking for help, or upskilling, for example. Leaders set an environment where colleagues ask for feedback, avoid assumptions and give people the benefit of the doubt, and get to know each other through shared experiences.

Lencioni solidifies the importance of vulnerability this way, “It is only when team members are truly comfortable being exposed to one another that they begin to act without concern for protecting themselves. As a result, they can focus their energy and attention completely on the job at hand, rather than on being strategically disingenuous or political with one another.”

Character and Competence.

Stephen M. R. Covey is one of the authors of the book “The Speed of Trust”. The Foreword in the book is written by his father Stephen R. Covey who wrote “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. The Forward is the first place the two aspects of trust are mentioned: Character and Competence.

Stephen M. R. Covey reveals 13 behaviors that build relationship trust and correlate to either character or competence. These are the behaviors. Determine which ones align best with character and then competence.

Talk Straight Get Better
Demonstrate Respect Confront Reality
Create Transparency Clarify Expectations
Right Wrongs Practice Accountability
Show Loyalty Deliver Results
Listen First, Keep Commitments, Extend Trust

Did you assess the left column as character and the right column as competence? Nice job! The three in the last row touch on both.

Covey shares an equation: ([Strategy times Execution] multiplied by Trust equals Results). He says, “Trust is a performance multiplier, creating synergy where the whole is more than the sum of its parts”.

Social Capital.

Margaret Heffernan is a professor of Practice at the University of Bath School of Management in the UK, a writer, CEO and keynote speaker. Her definition of social capital was shared with this way:  It is mutual reliance and an underlying sense of connectedness that builds trust.

Heffernan continues to share an experience within her own company where the cultivation of social capital was the catalyst to profound success with her team. “We had social capital: the trust, knowledge, reciprocity, and shared norms that create quality of life and make a group resilient. In any company, you can have a brilliant bunch of individuals, but what prompts them to share ideas and concerns, contribute to one another’s thinking, and warn the group early about potential risks is their connection to one another.”

What do these three influences to trust have in common? The universal thread is on the humanness of people. We saw words and phrases above like “get to know each other through shared experiences”, “relationship trust”, “connectedness.” Human connection is a powerful tenet of trust building. And notice that empathy rather than blame and believing malintent is an outcome of trust building. Empathy is a connector that can boost and nurture positive relationships. Watch for signs of empathy being expressed and connection growing in your teams. Keep in mind, as you assess connection in your team through noticing and encouraging their behaviors and modeling connection behaviors yourself, trust will continue to thrive and enhance the employee experience.


Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, pages 196-197

Stephen M. R. Covey, The Speed of Trust, pages 20, 136-222

Margaret Heffernan,