Trust Based Leadership: The Art of Deposits, Withdrawals, & Rebuilding Bonds

I often find it useful to use the analogy of trust in a team or relationship as being akin to an emotional savings account. You deposit ‘trust coins’ in moments both big and small. And, just like your everyday savings account, trust requires intentional deposits and is susceptible to withdrawals.

Now, let’s think of the trust coins as the actions, behaviours, and choices you make every day that contribute to building trust within your team. Each time you actively listen to your team members, provide transparent communication, and demonstrate accountability, you deposit metaphorical trust coins into the bank. These small gestures add up and create an environment where trust can grow and deepen within your team.

I have yet to come across a high-performing team that doesn’t have a strong foundation of trust at its core. It’s a critical ingredient to being able to do hard things in an uncertain environment.

Nurturing Trust In Teams

As a leader, you have to invest in building trust by consistently making deposits into this trust bank because withdrawals are bound to happen. There will be instances where mistakes are made, misunderstandings occur, or conflicts arise. These moments may result in withdrawals from the trust bank, impacting the overall level of trust within the team or in you.

When trust is broken, it’s essential to take a step back and re-evaluate the situation. Just as you might review a bank account statement, take time to reflect on what led to the withdrawal and how it can be managed and rebuilt over time so you are never in deficit and always have a healthy and growing balance. This could involve having honest conversations, understanding the other person’s perspective, offering real and sincere apologies, and taking specific actions to rebuild trust.

Rachel Botsman teaches and writes about trust and I love her approach to repairing a relationship where trust might have been damaged. It’s important to understand that repairing trust is a reset and not just a return to the ways things were. Things may forever be changed but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way forward.

trust based leadership diagram illustrating disconnect and reconnect

By recognising that trust operates like an emotional bank, you can approach trust-building in a more deliberate and thoughtful manner. Consistently making deposits through actions such as:

  • active listening
  • transparent communication
  • recognition
  • empowerment

and acknowledging our own vulnerabilities and mistakes allows the trust bank to grow and thrive.

Remember, trust is not built overnight!

It requires ongoing effort, consistency, and a willingness to address any withdrawals that may occur. By being intentional about your trust-building efforts, you can strengthen the bonds within your team.

For much more about trust building within your team, check out our on-demand short course, Team Trust Foundations: Master the Art of Building Trust for Leaders and Managers here.

Deep active listening skills

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