4 Steps to Building a High Trust Work Environment

Trust is the foundation for all healthy relationships—so it comes as no surprise that a leader’s ability to build trust is the key to effective one-on-one partnerships, teams, and organizations.

When people believe they are working for trustworthy leaders, they are willing to invest their time and talents in making a difference in an organization. They feel more connected and they want to invest more of themselves in their work. High trust levels lead to a sense of self-responsibility, deep interpersonal insight, and collective action toward achieving common goals.

The four elements of trust

Because trust means different things to different people, leaders and direct reports need a common language of trust—qualities they agree are consistent with trustworthiness. The ABCD Trust Model™ identifies four qualities you can use—Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable—to define and discuss trust with the people you lead.

  • Able is about demonstrating competence. As a leader, do you know how to get the job done? Are you able to produce results?
  • Believable means acting with integrity—creating and following fair processes. It’s about acting in a consistent, values-driven manner that lets people know they can rely on you.
  • Connected is when you demonstrate care and concern for others. Connectedness and communication go hand in hand. When you openly share information with your people about yourself and your organization, trust follows.
  • Dependable is about honoring commitments by following through on what you say you are going to do. It means being accountable for your actions and being responsive to the needs of others.

Creating a high trust environment

As a leader using the ABCD Trust Model™ as a guideline, you can create a high trust environment that fosters involvement and energy by taking four steps:

  1. Know the behaviors that support the ABCDs of trust. To read the behaviors in each category as well as take a free online assessment and view actual results, go here.
  2. Assess your current trust level in the areas of Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable.
  3. Diagnose areas that need work. Keep in mind that many behaviors that undermine trust are not done intentionally. For example, when I took the assessment, my lowest score was under Dependable, which surprised me—I had never thought of myself as undependable!
  4. Have a conversation to restore trust. When I spoke with my team, I learned that sometimes I said “yes” to things too easily, which led to my overcommitting myself. My team helped me find ways to become more Dependable, which lessened the stress load associated with an overfull calendar.

Repairing damaged trust

Despite our best efforts, many of us have lived through situations where we have damaged trust in a relationship. Misunderstandings due to trust issues are fairly common. The good news is that most relationships can recover after a breach of trust—but it takes time and hard work.

The following five-step process can help you begin to rebuild your relationship and restore trust.

  1. Acknowledge and assure. As you acknowledge the problem, assure the other party that your intention is to restore trust and that you are willing to take the time and effort to get your relationship back on track.
  2. Admit. Own up to your actions and take responsibility for the harm you may have caused. Admitting your part in the situation is a crucial step that should not be overlooked. Refusing to admit your mistakes undermines your believability.
  3. Apologize. Even if you don’t feel you were the only one at fault, apologize for your part in the situation. Avoid making excuses, shifting blame, or using qualifying statements—these will weaken your apology.
  4. Assess. Ask for feedback from the other person about how they see the situation. Together, assess which elements of the ABCD Trust Model™ were violated. The purpose of this step is not to point fingers, but rather to identify problem behaviors so they can be avoided in the future.
  5. Agree. The final step in rebuilding damaged trust is to work together to create an action plan. Mutually identify the positive behaviors you’ll use going forward and clarify your shared goals for the relationship.

The ripple effect

Higher level leaders personify trust. By role modeling trustworthy behaviors, you can set an example for others to follow, which will result in an organization where people assume the best of each other. This trusting atmosphere is self-evident to clients and customers, resulting in great results and relationships all around.

Want to learn more about building trust as a leader? Download the free 60-page summary of Leading at a Higher Level. It’s available for free on The Ken Blanchard Companies website.  Use this link to access the summary.

About the Author

Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard is cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies. Best known as the coauthor of The One Minute Manager, as well as 65 other books with combined sales totaling more than 21 million copies.

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