Trust is the most vital aspect of any relationship.

If you don’t trust someone it is extremely hard to get past that feeling and get any quality work done. Mistrust causes stress and distraction. It leads to politics and disengagement. And sometimes we find ourselves wanting to trust a leader or a coworker – but not feeling as though we can.

For some professions (the military, police and fire departments, heavy equipment operators, and healthcare professionals to name just a few) trust can be a matter of life or death. These leaders and teams must have trust for physical safety.

In most professions the stakes aren’t that high. But trust is still really important. For my team trust is essential for peace of mind. Without it we cannot perform our best.

I have a responsibility to my team to keep our business thriving. To make sure that they feel confident in our company and our mission. This is their livelihood. When they walk out these doors they go home to aging parents, kids who need schools supplies, homes that need maintained, friends and families that need support.

My job as a leader (and my greatest hope) is to make sure my team trusts that our work together will take care of them and their families. That our work of improving leaders will fulfill them and give them purpose. That they will take pride in the great work that we are accomplishing together.

People won’t trust you just because you want them to.

You must build it. Leadership trust is harder to come by than you would think. Each leader must show the team that they can be trusted. That they are worthy of trust.

And this is where we often fail. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report found that one in three employees don’t trust their employer. Another study by EY found that number to be even higher, stating that “less than half of global respondents have a ‘great deal of trust’ in their current employers.”

We have some work to do. Steffen Maier’s article “7 Ways Managers Can Build Trust in the Workplace” is a great place to start. Maier’s 7 rules provide logical, easy to implement steps for improving trust with your employees. They are also excellent characteristics of Approachable Leaders.

7 Ways Managers Can Build Trust

  1. Honesty is the best policy. It seems like we have to learn this one time and again. In your leadership, you’re most likely to deal with this when it comes time to delivering bad news. This may mean company-wide changes, a major issue with a client, or even things like not being flush enough to give out the bonuses your team has come to expect. Don’t leave them in the dark. Be real with them. Honest. Vulnerable.
  2. Admit mistakes. We prefer humble people who will admit a mistake. This, Maier points out, is associated with the Pratfall Effect. When someone admits they messed up, especially when they don’t have to (consider those in leadership positions), they are more likely to be trusted.
  3. Treat employees like people, not numbers. If your employees don’t feel like you care about them as people, how can they trust you? This is a main component of Approachable Leadership. Not only will your people trust you more if you’ve shown that you value them, they will work harder for you because of it. Being a leader who cares is the only kind of leader to be.
  4. Give credit to your employees. Your employees work for you. Your personal opinion of their quality of work is the main thing that keeps them in a job. If you never tell them good job, how will they know? Tell them when they’ve done something to be proud of. When they’ve done something that you’re proud of. And tell them every chance you get.
  5. Put yourself on the line for your team. In other words, be the leader. If your team is having an issue with another department or with a policy that needs addressed with the executive leadership, go to bat for them. If the higher-ups have an issue with your team, stick up for them. Take responsibility for your team. After all, they are your responsibility. If there’s been a failure or an oversight in your group, it’s more than likely there was a failure or oversight on your part first.
  6. Teach your managers how to overcome bias. This one is all about playing favorites. No one likes that. All you do when you show bias toward one person or group is devalue others. Stop it. Not only will it make your team like you less, it will surely make them trust you less.
  7. Make yourself vulnerable. Ask for feedback. A main component of Approachable Leadership is to learn to be vulnerable with your team. Vulnerability shows people that you’re just a real person with real problems too. This makes you more approachable. And leaders who are approachable have so many more opportunities to gain the trust of their employees because their employees come to them when they need help or guidance. Every time that happens, you have an opportunity to be a great leader and to show your team that they can trust you to be whatever you need to be for them.

Have you ever worked in an environment where you didn’t trust your coworkers or your boss? How did that feel? Did that affect the work environment? What do you do to help build trust with your team?