Earn the Trust of the Team You Lead

Earn the Trust of the Team You Lead

When it comes to building the trust of the team you lead, there are certain behaviors that make a massive difference in your success. Today, I am going to show you a great technique to not only earn that trust, but to keep it for a long time.

Here is how it works

The relationship between you and your followers is strongly defined by how you handle crisis situations that involve those followers. When everything is going well, the stress level of your team is low. People go about their work happily and can concentrate on their jobs, their careers and their daily tasks.

However, when one of them screws up or makes a big mistake, everything changes. They are afraid you are going to notice. They are worried about your reaction. Their concentration is now divided between their work and the uncertainty of what is going to happen next. Their anxiety raises significantly.

What you do at that precise moment will strongly determine the level of trust you will receive.

Unfortunately, very often the people who screw up are thrown under the bus by their leaders. Instead of offering help, their leaders instinctively protect their own careers and their own comfort and security. They accuse the person of not following directions, ignoring regulations, or being incompetent. They denounce their follower in front of their own bosses, to ensure that not a drop of blame rubs off on them. They hide their heads in the sand.

Without support from their leader, the person in question is on their own. They turn to their peers for support instead and immediately resent the leader. An attitude of “us” and “them” develops in the team and trust quickly evaporates.


And really, why wouldn’t it? After all, they expected their boss to be there for them, but were left with blame and zero support. When it comes to building the trust of the team, this is the fastest way of loosing it in an instant.

So, here is what to do instead

When one of your people makes a mistake, stand up for them. First, pause and assess the damage. Get the facts together first. When you know what you are dealing with, go to face your own supervisor and take shared responsibility for the situation.

The fallout may be unpleasant and you may be risking your own reputation, but you will be a leader in a true sense of the word, because you will not be betraying those who look up to you for support.

Once that is done, go back to the team member and deal with the issue on their level. Forgive or discipline accordingly (depending on the magnitude of the problem) but ensure that you end up with an action plan to help the person fix the problem and to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Here are your 3 action steps for such situations:

  • STEP 1: When one of your followers screws up or makes a mistake, pause and take a few breaths! Wait till you are no longer in a polarized emotional state and then investigate what happened. Be sure to talk to the person and any witnesses and ask not only what but most importantly why it happened. Don’t judge yet. Get the facts first!
  • STEP 2: Face your own supervisor and take shared responsibility. This is where you earn your stripes as a leader. Explain that a problem happened, that you are aware of it, that the person is your responsibility and therefore you will be taking steps to fix it.
  • STEP 3: Go back to the person in question and create two plans with them. First, make a plan to fix the problem. Secondly, make a plan to ensure that such an event won’t happen again. Don’t make a bigger deal out of it than it needs to be, especially if the issue is easily fixed or doesn’t have lasting consequences.

If you act like this around your followers, you will see their trust in you raise. You will no longer be just a supervisor, but someone who stands up for your team and who has their backs. You will be their leader.

They will have a new appreciation for you, because they will feel that they are no longer on their own, should something go wrong. Their anxiety will lower, their motivation will increase and their desire to work with you will rise.


Now, at this point you may say, “Yes, but I have people under me who frequently make THE SAME mistakes!“, or “Why should I risk my own career for someone who constantly screws up?” If that is the case, what I need you to do right now is to read this.

Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to our leadership newsletter for other tips and techniques on leading and on building the trust and respect of the team under your care.


  1. Well, this is something that is the most important when it comes to working with a team. As a leader, there are a lot of things that a person needs to have and a lot of qualities that a person has to possess before one can qualify as a good leader and one of those things is what you explained here, trust. When the followers can trust you and your decisions then they will work for you deligently.

    • Indeed. A lot of new leaders talk about gaining both trust and respect from their teams and every time I hear them say that, I smile, because they are on the right track. The beauty of trust is that it works both ways. The motivation of your team and their dedication to the project can triple, when they have a leader that they can trust.

  2. Hello Greg, leadership position is not one that you just conclude to take, you work fir it and eventually when you’ve earned it that way you have doubled your work and have to serve. I really like the content of this article and so gaining that trust you’ll need to lead will come from good conducts which I believe every leader should have

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