Just Trust Me…

by  Heather Coleman-Voss  |  Self Leadership

In anticipation of writing this blog post, I recently asked a question on my Facebook page: “What do leaders and managers do to cultivate a work environment of trust? What is successful, and what is not?” Overwhelmingly, the answer was this: “I want my supervisor to trust me.”

Ahhh….trust. It seems as if it should be so simple. Employees want to be trusted and respected for their work. Team members believe that their passion for their job, their work ethic, efforts and experience in their specific area should be recognized and rewarded. How? With autonomy, empowerment and open communication. These intelligent, dedicated professionals all agree – trust should be a normal part of the work culture. The question is, how do we accomplish this?

Employees want to be lead, not micromanaged.

Stephen Dahnke, an auditor, says this: “Set expectations for job assignments and follow up. Don’t micromanage. This lets people have the freedom to do assigned tasks but holds them accountable for results…it also fosters mentoring in any work relationship.”

Your dedicated team members respect leaders who respect their talents and abilities. They also appreciate a mentoring relationship, which fosters the opportunity for continued professional growth. Adds Melissa Cooley of The Job Quest, “Leaders build trust by empowering their team with knowledge.”

Team members want to be – and should be – heard.

Shay Bowls, a leader in the hospitality industry, emphasizes this point: “Show your employees that you value their opinion and take it into consideration…their ideas may be fresher and better than that of the top brass.” Alex Hardesty, paralegal and community advocate sums this up by saying, “Good managers know what they don’t know, what their teams do know; they know when to educate and when to listen.”

In order to be trusted, leaders must first be trustworthy.

Authentic leaders inherently know that it is our actions, not our titles, which make us leaders. Susan Corey, Manager of SEMCA MI Works!, puts this into perspective. “The manager has to act trustworthy. Allow staff to do their jobs. Let others know how important these folks are! Praise is always wonderful.”

A supervisor can attempt to rally his team at meetings and paste motivational posters throughout the office, but the words must underscore the actions. If we expect our teams to listen to us, we must show them that the respect is returned. Smart leaders listen more, talk less and gives credit where it is due.

Trust is a two-way street.

Successful relationships involve all parties equally. With this in mind, I took the opportunity to sit down for a conversation with my own supervisor, Pamela Bellaver of the Ferndale Career Center. I took a different spin on the question and asked her what team members can do to cultivate trusting relationships between leaders and employees.  Her answer was simple, authentic and very much worth discussing. Pam says, “Trust comes from history, time, honest communication and consistency. Keep your managers in the loop and ask their opinions – they may have the insights you need. As a leader, I know that I learn something every day because I am surrounded by the experts that make up my team.”

There is something important employees must keep in mind – the leader is responsible for the department, the organization, the contractors, customers and the staff. Leaders are held accountable to their leaders, boards, the public interest, the stockholders. Pam respects the leaders on her team who understand these layers and take the time to consider the different perspectives and responsibilities as we work to accomplish our shared vision.

Some points to ponder: As employees, what are our responsibilities in cultivating the environment we will thrive in? How do we support our leaders? And as leaders, how do we dismantle fear and create an autonomous, accountable workplace where our teams thrive in their areas of expertise? In this changing culture that is leadership; how do we plan to get from here to there?

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By heather-coleman-voss
Full Bio Coming Soon

What People Are Saying

William Powell  |  05 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Such a needed topic for discussion Heather. For leaders or employees: If you want to be trusted, make sure you act trustworthy. I think one of the most important points of this post is that collectively, the answers to questions and solutions to problems are available.

It’s when we begin to take things off on our own assuming we know better or have more answers that things get messy. Truly a culture to be developed in any organization and team.


David McQueen  |  05 Jan 2011  |  Reply

I was working with a group of emerging leaders the other day and I asked them what they thought trust meant, either express or implied, and had about ten different answers. There was still a bit of struggle when I asked them to come together with a singular definition that they could all agree on. So trust is a very interesting topic.

Love your take on it.

Interesting question though. How does a leader inspire to those who look up to them, if the no-one trusts the leader’s superiors?

HeatherEColeman  |  05 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Thank you for your comments – it *is* interesting that a collaborative definition of trust could not be created among leadership colleagues. Collectively, it seems we all have a lot of work to do!

The leader in-between has a tough job in that situation – if I don’t trust my leader’s superiors, how do I fully trust my leader? In that situation, I believe the leader has to have a tremendous amount of courage and be a fearless advocate for the team.

Appreciate your insights and thought-provoking questions!

HeatherEColeman  |  05 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Thank you for your comments! I agree – the solutions are there, and it is the responsibility of the *entire* team to take the action to implement them together.

I thought it may be interesting to discuss how leaders can be supported by their team – we spend quality time discussing how leaders can lead, but as Pam said during our conversation, “I have great leaders on my team…” Employees are leaders as well – creating a bridge of understanding between employees and leaders is critical to professional and organizational success.


Mike Henry  |  05 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Heather, great post about the two-sided nature of trust. Trust is an expression of confidence. As an employee, when I started seeing trust like a fuel gauge, I began to earn more of it. When everything is functioning properly, your supervisor’s confidence in you will reflect how much fuel you’ve put in the tank. Your supervisor isn’t trusting you, you may need to look for more and better ways to put fuel into your team. Your valued, consistent, quality contribution over time will move the needle.

Thanks for a great post.

HeatherEColeman  |  05 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Thank you so much for your comments – I love the discussions generated here on the Lead Change Group!

I love what you said here:

“When everything is functioning properly, your supervisor’s confidence in you will reflect how much fuel you’ve put in the tank. Your supervisor isn’t trusting you, you may need to look for more and better ways to put fuel into your team.”

I believe a successful working environment is created by collaboration – employees can and should fuel their supervisor’s efforts, just as the leaders themselves can create an environment of autonomy and trust. Communication, respect and consistency.

Heather :)

Thomas Waterhouse  |  08 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Yes, people want to be trusted since it represents freedom to grow! This is a quote from “A Trusting Character” (contributed here on September 17, 2010). I think it’s relevant to the discussion, so I hope folks will review the article. “A trusting character is free to be more concerned with the emotional environment that it creates for others than it is with its own emotional safety.” I list eight characteristics of a “trusting character” that are not only helpful for leaders, but for those they lead! Thank you, Heather. This is a critical topic.

HeatherEColeman  |  11 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Thank you for the comment – I look forward to reading more on “A Trusting Character.” I love this: “People want to be trusted since it represents freedom to grow.” This is so true for business as well as personal relationships!


Chad Balthrop  |  21 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Great topic…

Trust is the patience to give someone enough time to keep their word.
Trust is the perseverance to give someone enough room to make a mistake.
Trust is the persistence to recognize we’re in this thing together.

God Bless,

HeatherEColeman  |  31 Jan 2011  |  Reply

What a lovely way to describe trust – thank you for your comment!


Join The Conversation