What Do You Mean They Don’t Trust Me?

I doubt that too many leaders wake up in the morning saying to themselves, “Gee, I wonder how I can erode my team’s trust today?” If they did they would either be pure evil or would be trying to get people to quit their team. To me, it is almost unconscionable that a person who was able to rise to a level of leadership in an organization would stoop to such madness.

The thing I find interesting in my executive coaching practice are the calls I receive asking for suggestions on what can be done when a leader has lost their team’s trust. So, I did some research on organizational leaders regaining trust and here is a brief summary of what I found.

Steps to Regaining Trust

  1. Discern the Error. Since most leaders do not get up in the morning hoping to erode the trust of the team, it is important to decipher what went wrong. How small or large is the impact? Did you go back on your word? Are you making changes that people do not understand? Were changes made that were thought to be temporary but now they seem permanent? If the violation of trust is two-sided then some type of conflict resolution will be needed.

  2. Assess the Impact. If the violation of trust is localized between one, or two, individuals then move as fast as you can to rectify the situation. Realize that even if it’s just a misunderstanding, word travels quickly in organizations. Try and remedy this as fast as possible. If the transgression is more systemic, then a more formal, systematic plan may need to be put in place.

  3. Admit Publicly The Error Of Your Way...Quickly. Once you’ve identified your error, be prepared to make it right. Perhaps one of the most common trust errors is the perception of the leader using inconsistent standards to evaluate contribution. When this happens a leader needs to apologize for any inconsistency and strive for clarity around the standards being set.

  4. Listen to Each Other. No matter if the erosion is localized or systemic, good listening skills by both parties are needed. Avoid trying to justify behavior or explaining your intention. There can be time for that level of clarification later. The thing that is needed most at this point is to sit down, show good empathy and try to understand where the other person is coming from.

  5. Be Prepared to Apologize. The leader must have a humble posture in order to grant someone else a higher position than they take for themselves. According to Edgar Schein, this can be difficult for a leader because of the formal power granted by the organization where the follower is just expected to implicitly comply.

  6. Follow Up with Compassion. According to trust and communication expert, Irina Schultheiss Radu, leaders need to build cognitive trust by showing they are reliable and dependable to work whatever plan has been put into place. At the same time, the leader needs to build affective trust by showing true care and compassion. (Click here to refresh your memory on cognitive and affective trust.)

When a leader finds themselves in trust-issues situations immediate action is needed in order for organizational effectiveness and efficiency to be restored. Are you currently rebuilding trust with your team members? What actions are you putting in place to recover the path toward trust?

If you are a leader who thinks you have lost trust, or you are forwarding this article to someone you feel has lost trust, take heart. In most cases the trust is recoverable. The path is not easy, but if approached with sincerity, restoration is possible.

How Do You Define Trust?: Delegation Series #4

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Delegation Series. To wrap up, I’ve invited my Executive Assistant, Brandi, to explain how building trust in our work has enabled me to delegate things to her. Here’s Brandi...

I have had the honor of working alongside Scott for over three years now. At the beginning of our working relationship, Scott delegated to me tasks of a traditional Virtual Assistant, such as calendar management, travel coordination, copy-editing, and social media management. Although I still have involvement in some of these areas, my role within Scott’s company has evolved quite a bit, allowing me to partner with him in new ways that develop and grow his business.


These days I spend the majority of my time overseeing the full administrative scope of Scott’s coaching and consulting practice: contracting, designing and distributing program materials, administering assessments, managing coaching engagements, invoicing, and much more. Additionally, I regularly have the opportunity to partner with Scott to help guide and manage special projects, external contractors, and various growth opportunities.

As Scott and I have developed our working relationship, one very key attribute has determined our success: trust.

Merriam-Webster defines trust as, “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”

Scott and I define trust as:

  • Full access to work directly with his clients, knowing that I will treat them with the utmost respect, kindness, and care, to ensure the success of the program, coaching engagement, or consultation.

  • Confidence in my decision making, allowing me the freedom to select travel arrangements, schedule meetings, edit content, and make recommendations without questioning or hesitation.

  • Reliance on each other’s areas of expertise. Recently, while talking through a project we were about to pull the trigger on, Scott said, “I am hesitating, even though I know this is the right direction, but I just can’t visualize it.” Within seconds I was able to virtually share my computer screen, walk him through a demonstration of a similar project, and give him the visuals he needed to ensure confidence in moving forward.

With trust as the foundation, Scott and I have found a rhythm that allows each of us to work within our strengths. As a result, not only are we both happy in our roles, but Scott’s business is thriving, his clients are happy, and he is free to spend his days doing what only he can do (even if it means leaving the office an hour early to play some golf or spend time with his sweet granddaughter, Natalie).

So, how do you develop this kind of trust with your team?

Here are a few things that have helped us:

  • Prioritize regular communication. Scott and I meet first thing each Monday morning via video conference to catch up and talk about the week’s priorities.  

  • Be reliable. Scott and I have proven to each other that we will do what we say we will do. If we encounter delays or roadblocks, we communicate our concerns quickly.

  • Create an environment where it is safe to fail. In our very first meeting a few years ago Scott told me that on our team there is no blaming. When we fail, we are not interested in pointing fingers, we focus on making it right and learning so that the mistake is not repeated. I have heard Scott reiterate that to our team throughout the years and I believe this has significantly contributed to an environment of trust.

Trust is not something that develops overnight, but with the right person in the right place on your team, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish together as trust grows. If you are interested in exploring the idea of finding a new team member who can partner with you in similar ways, I encourage you to reach out to BELAY.

Do you have a case of “Yeah, But?”

The experience of being a grandparent is everything I thought it would be and more! My wife and I just finished a three-day “grandparents camp” with our little granddaughter and we had such a good time together. Our little bundle of joy has really made an impact on my life. She has changed me a lot.

However, there has been one change I did not expect.

My brother, who beat me to the grandparenting experience by about 18 months, kept telling me it was going to be the best experience of my life. He would send me videos of himself and his grandson playing on the floor together or reading stories. While there was a sense of joy, I have to admit it didn’t look like that much fun to me. I have not rolled on the ground with kids for a long time. Where was the intellectual stimulation going to come from?

How Wrong Can One Man Be

I was 100% wrong! I had no idea what I was talking about. My little granddaughter has totally changed my approach to life.

The most profound effect she’s had on me is the revelation that I need to continue to work on my listening skills. Here is an example:


“Grandpa let's take Carlos (my dog) for a walk.”

“Ok, let me finish the article I am working on and we will go.”

Yeah, But Carlos needs to go for a walk.”


Or Consider,


“Grandma, I want a snack.”

“Sweetie we will eat lunch pretty soon.”

Yeah, But I want a snack.”


Many times when change is not going our way, we as humans do not want to go deeper into the reason why. Since change brings on so much emotion, it is important for us to step back and realize the problem we are having with change could be that we are trying to use logic with an emotional issue.

For my wife and I, being grandparents means that we have had about 6 years since our youngest son left our home and our little grandbaby entered our world. When Greg left home he departed as an adult. We could have very adult-like, seemingly logical discussions with him.

What seems so obvious to me now never occurred to me in the moment. Why wouldn’t telling my granddaughter that we would have lunch pretty soon be good enough for her? Surely she has experienced lunch before and knows her hunger will be satiated when she finishes her meal. I mean by now she has probably had over 700 lunches in her life, surely that is enough repetition for her to know what lunch means…

Yeah, But...

I have experienced the case of “Yeah, But” in my coaching practice as well. I will be working with a client who knows they need to change a behavior, such as:

  • Becoming more assertive in meetings

  • Having more empathy for those they lead

  • Taking deep breaths and relaxing

  • Celebrating the success of others

  • Having more empathy for those they lead (It was worth listing it twice!)


As I work with them on these, and many other skills, I can often sense a,

Yeah, But...

It is there. It is not always obvious. Maybe not even articulated. But, as I sense the resistance from my client I can feel like I am up against a “Yeah, But.”

This is an indicator for me to slow down and try and understand the emotions my client is feeling. Yeah But means there is an emotional hurdle that needs to be jumped, and before I rush on with more logical thought, I need to slow down and help my client climb over the emotional barrier.

When we are working with people experiencing change, speaking logic during these times can be futile. Instead, we, as the leader, need to focus on helping our followers navigate change in a safe and trusting environment. It is during times of confidence and protection that Yeah But can be satisfied and the learning can resume.

Even if that learning means having a snack right before lunch.