The Importance of Bidirectional Trust in the Workplace

Maker, developer, programmer. For the last twelve years, these are words that I would use to describe my primary function at work. That changed recently when I became a manager for the first time. It’s been a fun and challenging transition. In only a few months, I’ve learned a lot and become immensely aware that I have a lot more to learn.

The first lesson I learned as a manager is that trust is crucial.

I firmly believe that to be an effective manager, you must build trust with your team. From the first moment that you become someone’s manager, the dynamic of your conversations with that person will change. The topics you talk about will be more serious, and the stakes will be higher.

When you’re discussing matters such as compensation, work expectations, or career aspirations, if you don’t have a foundation of trust, there’s very little chance of reaching an outcome where both parties feel satisfied.

The good thing is that if you really care about the people you work with, and they care about you, trust should develop naturally. It won’t happen overnight, of course, but if you carry out your work with honesty and transparency, and you continuously show your teammates that their opinions matter to you, it will come.

Trust Must Be Bidirectional

To feel happy and secure in the workplace, your team members will need to trust you as their manager. They need to know that you will support their career growth and advancement. It’s also important for most folks to know that they can impact the workplace because they have a manager who listens to them and respects their opinions.

That said, it’s also very important that you trust your team. No matter what type of manager you are, you’re going to be making commitments that will be dependent on the effectiveness of your team and what they can deliver. To confidently sell your team’s work either to your clients or your supervisors, you’re going to need to trust in your team’s abilities and their motivation to produce successful results.

Trust Starts with Humility

I think I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up humility. As I see it, humility is one of the most important characteristics that a person can have when it comes to building a trusting relationship.

Regardless of whether you’re brand new to management or a seasoned veteran, there’s always more you can learn from your team.  If you don’t approach your work with a spirit of humility, you will likely be seen as arrogant, and you will miss out on developing the deep relationships with your colleagues that you otherwise might have had.

Trust Makes Sales

At a service company, our “product” is our process and our people. It’s our ability to understand what clients need — what problems they’re trying to solve — and to create products that meet their needs. To convince someone we can do that, we have to build relationships with them and develop trust. I don’t believe there are many people out there who would buy a service from someone they didn’t trust.

But trust isn’t only important when selling services. Think about the places where you shop online. What keeps you coming back to those same sites? Why did you choose them in the first place? Very likely, it’s because of their reputation for reliably delivering products at reasonable prices. That is, you trust that you will get what you order, and for a fair price.

Of course, businesses aren’t the only ones selling things. In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human, he argues that every time we try to persuade, influence, or convince someone of anything, we’re doing what he calls “non-sales selling.” So regardless of what your job title is — or even if you don’t have a job — you’re essentially “selling” something every day.

To that end, I would argue that regardless of who you are or what you do for a living, building relationships and establishing trust with others is critical.