Critical thinking

3 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Build a Culture of Trust

To be a company the public can count on, your company’s most valuable resource — its people — needs to be able to count on you, too. There are a few steps you can take to build trust with your internal teams.

Organizational values operate on two fronts. Yes, they appeal to interested customers, but they also serve as the “why” and the “how” for your employees. Values provide the blueprint for how customers carry out their day-to-day responsibilities and represent the company.

What trait should trump them all? Probably trust. And cultivating it begins with an internal effort. If employees trust the people they work for, they believe in what they do that much more — and that resonates with the public.

Employees don’t just gift that trust to employers, no questions asked. According to Workforce Institute, 38% of employees don’t trust their bosses to prioritize worker needs over profit. Furthermore, 68% said a lack of trust hindered their daily output, while 24% said they left an employer due to lack of confidence.

For business leaders, the question is simple: How can the public trust you if your own team doesn’t give you the benefit of the doubt?

Today’s consumers are already discerning enough without the companies they frequent being untrustworthy. To be a company the public can count on, your company’s most valuable resource (its people) needs to be able to count on you, too.

Here are three ways leaders can create trust with their internal teams:

  1. Create a culture of openness.
    Every company claims to be transparent on some level. Some preach financial transparency (e.g., salary, earnings, etc.); others like to peel back the curtain on their hiring practices so employees know what’s being done to attract a diverse and inclusive cadre of candidates.

    Both those approaches are effective, and if you’re practicing one of those, you can probably stand to do more. That starts with creating an approachable atmosphere where your team feels comfortable asking about updates. Schedule regular check-ins with individuals and teams so they know what’s going on at a departmental and companywide level. Check-ins help employees feel at ease at work and make them 3.5 times more likely to reach their maximum productivity output, according to the Centre for Talent Innovation.

    TBGA CEO Christine Alemany sees regular dialogue as a small, iterative step toward creating trust internally. “You cannot expect to change your company culture overnight. Building enough trust to have difficult conversations can take years,” Alemany says. “Start by making small and productive internal measures toward a larger goal, and these steps will help that overarching objective seem more attainable.”

  2. Act with conviction.
    We’ve all seen someone hem-and-haw an answer during times of stress. It can be a verbal cue like a stutter or pause or an averted eye gaze. Although neither one automatically indicates someone is untrustworthy, neither act inspires confidence.

    On a higher level, be a strong and stable pillar of trust for your team. For example, if a team member disagrees with a new initiative and asks for an explanation, don’t duck them. Instead, take the time to confidently answer them and explain your decision. They still might not agree with what you said and may come back with more questions, but they’ll at least appreciate the honesty and forthrightness.

    As a leader, you’ve ascended to that level because you’re trusted to act quickly and with conviction. Your team will understand that your actions were in good faith and be more receptive to future actions.

  3. Be comfortable owning mistakes.
    We’ve all had those days. The right words don’t come out. The wrong keys were hit. The wrong directions were given. Errors are a part of life that we’re all familiar with. You expect your employees to own up to theirs, so it’s only fair that you return the favor.

    Being averse to admitting fault, too, is human. One study found that 66% of respondents said they don’t admit their mistakes because of the feeling of vulnerability that follows. Instead of seeing it as a referendum on your ability as a person, see admitting mistakes as a chance to grow and show a new dimension of your personality.

    As a leader, you want to inspire your employees to be the best version of themselves. Any mistake you make — common or large-scale — shows your employees that you’re open to admitting when you’ve erred. In turn, they may feel more compelled to have more open dialogues about their struggles and mistakes, which can help keep them invested in company growth.

Trust is a currency you can’t afford to run out of with your employees. Work to always make it a priority so they can convey it to your customers and the public as a whole.


Written by Rhett Power.

Have you read?

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Global Passport Ranking, 2022.
The World’s Richest People (Top 100 Billionaires, 2022).
Jamie Dimon: The World’s Most Powerful Banker.

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Rhett Power
Rhett Power is responsible for helping corporate leadership take the actions needed to drive impact and courage in their teams that will improve organizational performance. He is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful (McGraw-Hill Education) and co-founder of Wild Creations, an award-winning start-up toy company. After a successful exit from the toy company, Rhett was named the best Small Business Coach in the United States. In 2019 he joined the prestigious Marshall Goldsmith's 100 Coaches and was named the #1 Thought Leader on Entrepreneurship by Thinkers360. He is a Fellow at The Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. He travels the globe speaking about entrepreneurship and management alongside the likes of former Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and AOL Founder Steve Case. Rhett Power is an acclaimed author, leader, entrepreneur and an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.