Tech Leader Pro podcast 5, Building trust

Published on 2020-10-19 by John Collins.



So what exactly is trust, and why should you care? Let’s begin with a dictionary definition:

Trust is a:

"reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence."

Trust therefore is a bond based on someone’s word, a "verbal contract" if you will. Based upon the perceived integrity and surety of the person offering their word on a certain outcome, the audience can determine the likelihood of that outcome.

Put simply: "if I say I will do something, then I will do it, you can trust me".

So why should you care about trust? Well as a leader, you can start to think about trust as a form of honor-based currency. If a person has a high degree of trustworthiness, then they have a large amount of that currency. You can trust that person in your team to deliver on their commitments.

If however a person has a low amount of trustworthiness, their value in your team diminishes, and you will be constantly chasing after them to see if their commitments are on track.

Like any other currency, the amount a person has can increase or decrease, based upon their actions. By demonstrating that your word is your bond, you can increase your stock of trust. In particular as a leader, you need to have a high degree of trustworthiness, otherwise your team will doubt you, and that can be fatal if left neglected for too long.

In the currency of trust, what goes around comes around. If you squander what trust you have, you will find it harder to get people to follow you, as your influence declines.

Trust is the currency of conviction, determination, and ultimately success.

Does trust really matter in 2020?

Honestly I have doubts, as in the media and in my career, I have seen many dishonorable, untrustworthy leaders becoming financially successful regardless. I have even seen such leaders receive cult-like following, which is disappointing. It seems for those followers, the more their leader cheats, the more they respect them. Sadly in 2020, you can succeed without trust, and only you can decide whether that matters or not.

We all have our own morale compass. There are some sectors in IT where I will not work for example, as I believe they hurt people. Only you can decide that honour and trust matter to you, but I hope you choose that path, even though it is harder work, and set that cultural example in your team.

In the "fake news" World we live in today, trust has been so devalued, that it almost seems quaint. That saddens me, so lets see if I can convince you that building trust still matters.

Building trust with team mates

To build trust within a team is important to maintain team cohesion, namely to ensure that team mates work smoothly with each other, they need to trust that the other guy has got their back. When trust starts to break down in a team, people tend to pull in different directions, as their own separate agendas come to the fore.

One way to encourage that trust is via transparency, and honest communication. Even bad news should be clearly explained to the team, so that they can trust you to not hide anything. Secondly, you as a leader need to be able to trust the team to give you honest feedback, honest estimates, and honest opinions on the directions being taken.

First and foremost however, to build trust with you team you must keep your word. If you say you will do something, then you must follow through and execute on that topic. Giving your team that example, it is then fair for you to expect each and every one of them to do the same, in order to build a trust-based culture where your word matters.

Trust as a reward

When you receive someone’s trust, that can be very rewarding as you know you have earned it. Most people, especially leaders, do not give you their trust easily. Once you have earned it, you must continue to demonstrate that the trust placed in you was justified, because of course it can be just as easily taken away.

As a leader, when I trust someone that means I can start to ease right back on direct management of them. I start to think that they are self-sufficient, they are smart, and they will keep their word in terms of follow ups and meeting their commitments.

Trust enables you to scale as a leader: the more trusted deputies you have in your management team, the easier it becomes for you to scale the overall team size. You do not need to trust everyone, but you do need to have a set of trusted deputies close to you at all times. An effective management team must be built on principals of mutual trust.

Building trust with customers

Building trust with your customers has its own special challenges, as I mentioned in episode 2 [1] of this podcast, many of your escalations will come from your customers and the degree of trust they place in you plays an important part in those escalations.

If a customer has a high degree of trust in you, they are less likely to freak out when something goes wrong. Furthermore, they are more likely to renew licenses, contracts, and buy new products from you, making the importance of that trust even greater.

Earning and maintaining that trust is achieved in the same ways we have discussed before, mainly by following up on your project commitments, holding landing dates, and following through on what you say you will do.

Gaining trust with your customers is the hardest to achieve, and the most valuable to maintain.

Trust in a brand

We all have some degree of personal trust in a brand. For example, we can expect a high quality car from Mercedes, a great user experience from Apple, and a really nice flight from Emirates. Companies spend millions on marketing campaigns to build trust in their brands, but they also know that the delivery of the real experience has to match the expectations those campaigns set.

Once a company builds a trustworthy brand, then will naturally want to protect it. They do this via customer care, for example fixing any customers issues quickly and quietly, while at the same time continuing to spend in the market to ensure their brand perception remains high.

As a consumer, you gain from this dynamic by knowing more-or-less what to expect when you purchase a product or service from a well known company. You can decide to spend more to get a better experience, or spend less and get what you pay for, it’s really up to you.

It only becomes an issue when you spend a premium amount on a premium brand, but then receive an inferior experience. That rarely happens however, due to this focus on brand value and associated trust in mature markets, especially from market leaders.

The benefits of trust

So at the beginning of this episode, I asked if trust really matters in 2020? Given that truth and accuracy is under attack in the media, its a valid question to ask, but in our personal and business lives, I believe that trust is still an integral part of social cohesion.

So let me repeat some of the benefits we have discussed so far:

  1. Teamwork is easier when trust is part of the culture. It is easier to work in a team when you know the others guys are pulling their weight, and they have your back in a tight spot.
  2. Trust allows a leader to delegate tasks to trustworthy team mates, and no longer worry about the outcomes. When you trust someone, you know they will meet their commitments and get the job done. This allows a leader, and an organization, so scale out.
  3. When a customer trusts you, they are less likely to escalate when there is a problem, and more likely to give you renewed or even new business.
  4. As a consumer, when you trust a brand to have high quality and excellent service, it enables you to make more informed purchasing decisions, and to have higher expectations from premium brands.

Finally and more generally, live is better when you can trust the people you interact with every day, whether they are your family, friends, colleagues, or customers. When each of us sticks to our word, then the level of stress and anxiety experienced by everyone is reduced.


Lets recap what we have covered today:

  1. Firstly we defined what "trust" was, and emphasized that it is a verbal contract, or bond, based upon someone’s word.
  2. We also seen that trust is a form of social currency, and the stock of which each person has can be increased or decreased depending upon their actions. If they demonstrate trustworthiness, then that stock increases. If they do no keep their word, then it declines.
  3. I discussed whether or not trust, as a currency of value, really matters in 2020 during these "fake news" times we are living in. In my opinion it does, in spite of it being a somewhat old fashioned principal, it is still highly relevant for business and general life.
  4. For team mates, trust is critical for team cohesion. When a team stops trusting each other, it starts to break down and pull in different directions, and cohesion is lost.
  5. Leaders can bestow trust on selected deputies who have proven to deliver results. There is something very powerful in saying to someone “I trust you to take care of this topic as you see fit”, and then no longer worrying about that topic. Having a select team that you trust to delegate to enables you to scale, as it is not realistic to take care of everything yourself.
  6. When you have built trust with your customer, you must protect that dearly, as this is the hardest to obtain, and the most valuable as it leads to repeat business. You must keep your word with your customers.
  7. As a consumer, when you trust in a brand, you can feel more confident in spending a premium price to get a premium experience. Companies spend millions on marketing campaigns to build trust in their brands for good reason: they know that customers base their spending decisions on brand trust and loyalty to a high degree.
  8. Finally, we listed again some of the benefits of trust. I hope at this point, I have convinced you that trust matters in many aspects of life, and you should take it seriously both from the perspective of who you should trust, and who you need to build trust with in order to get people to take you at you word.

I hope you enjoyed this episode, and I look forward to covering the next topic in this series with you! In the interim if you want to follow me online, you can find my blog at, or follow me on Twitter @TechLeaderPro.

Thanks for your time, take care and have a great week!




File details: 17 MB MP3, 11 mins 49 secs duration.


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