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4 steps to building trust with customers and employees

01/20/2016  |  By: Leisa Gill, Director of Client Experience

Having an outstanding product or service is vital to success in today’s ever-more competitive marketplace. But it is not enough. Having a management team with industry expertise is crucial to building productivity among employees. But that is not enough, either.

Without building trust with customers and employees, you’ll eventually find yourself in the position of the drum major who struts forward to lead a great parade, only to glance back and see that no one is following.

Without trust, you will be unable to get the support you need, find that others are not willing to share information and realize some people may decide it isn’t in their best interest to follow you.

Here are four ways to build and strengthen trust in your business life, or even in the world outside the office.

Exhibit honesty

Honesty and sincerity go hand-in-hand and are foundational pillars to building trust.  If a project cannot be completed in an expected timeframe, it is better to be honest and promptly share that information with the parties involved rather than risk eventually losing their trust because you did not deliver on your promise.

Example:  You contract with a company for delivery of a new sound system by Feb. 1, and have your installation team scheduled for the days that follow.  However, the delivery is delayed by two weeks without advance warning. Now, the installation team must work you into their calendar.  What was going to be a few days for an install can easily become weeks of waiting to get back into the rotation. How will you feel about using the same company for your next purchase?

Demonstrate competence

Knowing how to get the job done and accessing expertise outside of your skillset when needed not only demonstrates competence, but also the ability to effectively manage a situation or project. Few things are accomplished by a team of one.  Don’t underestimate the importance of continuously educating yourself on the latest challenges, risks, and opportunities that surround you. Being able to speak intelligently should an issue arise is a competence that is often underrated.  Knowing when to reinforce your competence with the expertise of others is the golden ticket to a heightened level of respect and trust.

Be present

The old saying “they don’t care what you know until they know that you care” explains why it is so important to be sincere in your dealings with others. One way to demonstrate sincerity is by being there. Spending time with a family member, team member or a customer is time well spent.  After all, you can’t help, even if it is only listening, unless you are present — both physically and mentally. Others share with you because they have a level of trust built with you. You reinforce their decision to trust you by listening, asking questions and helping them through a challenge.

Remember that active listening is not the same as talking. Trying to see things from the other person’s perspective, then asking questions to gain further insight is critical to strengthening trust.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

The best intentions in the world aren’t worth much without communication. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is another pillar to building trust.  No one likes surprises on a project.  Communication keeps all involved both engaged and assured.

Example:  I was on the planning team for a new initiative at a previous company.  The planning team was chosen based on each person’s area of expertise.  Because of the magnitude of the project, the outcome was clearly dependent on all of us collaborating and delivering at our highest level.

One particular team member, trying to raise their visibility as a leader on the project, withheld information from other team members. The lack of communication caused a significant delay in the project rollout.  It further caused trust issues with the various members of the team.  It was very difficult for the other team members to place their trust in the want-to-be leader for other projects that followed.

Keeping communication clear and concise also builds buy-in.

In closing, it is always the right time to do the right thing.  Those who walk with integrity have many followers and trust is evident. But even with all the building of trust and doing the right thing, none of us are without fault. One can make the wrong decision thinking they are doing the right thing.  When this happens, be open and honest.  Transparency is important to preserving the trust you worked so hard to build.

So, practice honesty, demonstrate competence, empathize and be open and clear in your communications, and trust will be an essential quality built into any and all of your relationships.

Leisa Gill is director of client experience and leader of the Privately Held Business Segment at LBMC, a premiere Tennessee-based professional services firm. Contact Leisa at or 615-309-2231.