10 tips for IC pros to build trust in your leaders

How can you build trust in your leadership team? Is it your role or theirs to do so? That’s a whole other blog post…

Trust_2Today I’ve got 10 tips to share with you thanks to a guest post written by Nick Terry, MD at Top Banana. They are leadership driven events specialists here in the UK and have been researching this topic for some time.

Last year Top Banana published a report in collaboration with Westminster Business School, University of Westminster and the Institute of Internal Communication. It highlighted the importance of trust within an organisation and particularly trust in the leadership team at the top of the tree.

I’ll hand you over to Nick…

Further reading: Report reveals leaders critical to repair broken trust. (Published February 2015).

Further reading: Why 2016 is the year CEOs need to trust employees. (Published January 2016).

10 tips for IC pros to build trust in your leadership team

Higher levels of trust lead to higher individual, team and company performance. It means more people working together, better problem solving, a more positive work climate and higher employee engagement.

But how can internal communicators work to build employee trust inside their organisations?

As a follow-up to the report we launched last year, a group of global business leaders, senior in-house communicators and independent experts were asked about trust and the actions they felt were key to building and sustaining trust in their leadership team.

From all of this insight, here’s our top ten tips for IC professionals to build trust in your leadership team and business.

1. Benchmark trust and measure progress

Benchmark trust 2Become a champion for establishing a formal system of trust measurement in your organisation. An annual survey that measures and benchmarks trust is one method, but there’s no universal way of doing this, so dedicate the time to get it right in your company.

2. Be consistent. 

If predictability is one of the four pillars of trust[1], then consistency is the key to ensuring it. We trust what we know, and what we expect. Internal communicators should challenge and counsel business leaders to communicate consistently, for example, always being open and honest (not just when it suits).

3. Encourage feedback – and listen to it

Encourage feedback 2Leaders need feedback loops to know if there are real (or perceived) issues in their business. Developing the means for employees’ voices to be heard and creating open dialogue with employees ensures there is effective two-way communication between the leaders and all other employees.

If employees see their views are being listened to, as well as acted upon, they are also far more likely to accept the direction in which the company is travelling so it’s win-win!

4. Keep colleagues informed

Without regular and consistent information, employees will lose focus – and trust. Whether you are communicating a strategy, launching a new product internally or driving behavioural change, leaders need to communicate their intentions clearly and consistently.

Communicating something once will not keep employees informed and engaged.

5. Communicate face to face 

Face to face 2In a world where wide-spread communication is at the touch of a button, never forget that research proves again and again that employees dislike the overuse of electronic communication and that face-to-face is more engaging, authentic and trustworthy.

Face-to-face communication is one of the most important initiatives any organisation can introduce to build trust. Focus on creating continuous opportunities for your business leaders to be seen – both formally (e.g. roadshows and events) and informally (e.g. walking the floors).

The Leadership moment


6. Dare to be different 

As Einstein said, ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’

If IC professionals can earn the trust of senior leaders to challenge them on their communication approach, styles and preferences and encourage them to think differently, the results can be game changing.

7. Love your line managers 

Because trust is transitive, line managers are often described as the miracle in the middle, the glue that binds the leadership team to everyone else. Communicate with them in a bespoke way, get them together, work collaboratively with them. They are a critical component to building wider organisational trust.

8. Apply context 

Every organisation’s culture is different. Learn and understand what creates and destroys trust in your organisation. Promote the communication tools and practices that build trust. Challenge those that don’t.

9. Be committed

Talk is cheap – leaders need to be bold in making commitments to employees. Black and white, solid commitments.

They also, critically, need to act on the commitments they make, with ongoing communication about progress.

10. Be a trusted advisor  

Taking steps to build trust 2Work hard to become a trusted advisor to your business leaders and managers – you need their trust so that you can convince them they need to earn employees’ trust. Start small, perhaps with regional/ divisional managers and directors to gain confidence and advocates along the way.

Find out more

You can download both the ‘Building Trust: Ten initiatives to help build trust – from trusted leaders in successful businesses’ and ‘Leadership, Trust and Communication: Building Trust in Companies Through Effective Leadership Communication’ reports from Top Banana’s website.

[1] Mayer, et al., 1995, Dietz and Den Hartog, 2006

Post author: Nick Terry.

Thank you Nick. What do you think of what you’ve read? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

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First published on the All Things IC blog 2 February 2016.


  1. Trust is fundamental to any relationship – whether with your friend, lover, husband, wife, or between employer and employee.
    If we think about what behaviour we find trustworthy and otherwise that translates directly to any other relationship – only the context and the means at your disposal to build trust changes.
    The core principles I take from this are to be open, sharing, consistent, present, reliable and honourable in yours word and actions. Pretty much the fundamentals of being a decent human being.

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