Trust is the cornerstone for any healthy relationship. Without trust, how do you collaborate, whether that be on winning a game, successfully meeting business expectations, or building a family and life together?


As a coach working with business managers and leaders at all organizational levels, I often find that a lack of trust is top of mind. However, these same clients don’t have any idea on how to build, or restore, the trust needed for success. Sometimes, the lack of trust is downward to the people who work for them. Sometimes it is upward; people don’t trust their manager. The lack of trust can be peer-to-peer within an operating unit, or it can be across units.


There may be a lack of trust of frontline workers, of C-suite executives, or anywhere in between. For businesses to be successful, teams need to have trust within themselves as well as across what General Stanley McChrystal refers to as the “team of teams.” Anyplace that trust does not exist within a team or between one team and another in an organization, the ability for the organization to successfully function is jeopardized. Because it is neuroscience based, Judith E. Glaser’s T.R.U.S.T. model is an ideal framework for building and sustaining the trust teams need inside themselves as well as with others.


Transparency is critical to trust. Humans are curious; our brains are wired for protection. If there are questions that go unanswered, our tendency is to make up the answers. As managers and leaders, this means being transparent about what you do and what you don’t know. It means being transparent about what you tried that did work, and what didn’t. It means being transparent about the tough truths (see below) as well as the good news. It also means being transparent about what you need from others. All too often, expectations are implicit until they are not met. Have those conversations that make expectations explicit; refresh those conversations when expectations change.


Relationship between roles is important. What are the expectations of the other in her role? What is she accountable for? What authority does and doesn’t she have? How well does she know these same things about you? However, a relationship built between roles is not enough to build strong trust. Relationship comes from knowing more than the role; it comes from knowing the person in the role. Who is he? What are his values? What is his life outside of the workplace? What brings him joy? What are his struggles? Relationships between people are infinitely stronger than relationships between roles. Learn to see the work they are doing through the other person’s eyes. Build person-to-person relationships.


Understanding, truly understanding, comes from deep listening, curiosity, and hearing what is not being said. All too often, we listen to respond. Stop. Listen to understand. Be curious as to what the other is thinking, what they believe (and don’t believe), and why.Suspend judgment. Each of us thinks and acts in ways that make sense to us. Learn what is behind the thoughts and the actions of others. Learn to see and validate the other’s perspective.


Shared Success is easy to assume; it is hard to define. It is not uncommon for teams – especially leadership teams – to spend time wordsmithing their definition of success so that all can agree on the language while knowing that each attributes different meanings to the words. This is not the path to shared success! Shared success is only possible when you are able to work through the challenges that are inherentwhen team members hold different perspectives and arrive at shared meaning.


Truth Telling is easy when the truths are meaningless, unimportant, or positive. Most leaders and team members are good at telling those truths. It is telling the tough truths that is the challenge. Sometimes the tough truth has to be told one-to-one and sometimes to many. Trust is built when you tell those truths with caring and candor. “There will be layoffs” may be candor; it isn’t caring. “Don’t worry; things will work out” may be caring; it isn’t candor. “While we will be laying people off, we will do everything we can to help you successfully transition to a new position elsewhere” is candor and caring.


This model – Transparency, Relationship, Understanding, Shared Success, Truth Telling –can be used a number of different ways. Individual team members might reflect on each of the elements: “What am I doing to be transparent? What might I do differently?” Etc. They may have these conversations with a coach, a peer, or a supervisor. A team coach might watch the team in action, breaking in to coach when any of these elements of trust is being violated or when there is an opportunity to further strengthen it.


As a coach, whenever there is a need to increase trust between individuals, I offer the following as the sole question to be asked. “What can I do to strengthen your trust in me?” If those in this conversation know the T.R.U.S.T. model, it can help move the discussion from one of feelings (e.g., “I just don’t feel like I can trust you.”) to one of actions (“You could be more candid in your feedback about ways in which I can more effectively support you.”).


As Stephen Covey made clear in his seminal book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it takes a long time to build trust and a short time to lose it. Being intentional about applying Judith E. Glaser’s model can accelerate the process of building the trust that teams need. It can also help to short-circuit the possibility of losing it.

Brian Gorman, Professional Certified Coach
Director of Program Development, Quantuvos