Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about trust in the workplace. I like the model in R. John Young’s book The Five Essential Leadership Questions in which he proposes that an organization can’t sustain top performance unless it’s built on a solid foundation of trust. Think about work situations you’ve been a part of that have gone extremely well—for you, for the group, and for the organization. Wasn’t there a healthy dose of trust among the players in those situations? I bet there was.


We can’t help but operate at a higher level when we trust those around us and when we feel they trust us. We’re at our best and we bring out the best in others when we can create mutual trust. But how do we do that?


Young talks about five elements of trust that build on each other:


  1. Relationships – Trust depends on having strong relationships.
  2. Communication – You can’t have strong relationships without effective communication.
  3. Listening – You can’t have effective communication without truly listening to each other.
  4. Respect – You can’t truly listen to people if you don’t respect them.
  5. Knowing – You can’t respect people without taking the time to know them.


OK, so how do you get to know the people you work with? Should you interview everyone? Hmm… Maybe, but that might be coming on a little strong. Try something different: Go first, and allow people to know you by telling them a personal story.


This article from New York Magazine talks about this way of building trust and why it works. It makes intellectual and intuitive sense to me. If it makes sense to you too, try building some trust with someone you work with by trusting them first with one of your personal stories, and see how it goes.



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want.