The 4 Qualities Leaders Need to Build Trust and Boost Team Effectiveness

Relational intelligence is the key ingredient to trusting, high-performing professional relationships.

Written by Adam C. Bandelli
Published on Sep. 21, 2022
The 4 Qualities Leaders Need to Build Trust and Boost Team Effectiveness
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Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds together all personal and professional relationships. In organizational contexts, trust is one of the most critical factors in driving great team effectiveness, job performance, and profitable growth. It is the way for leaders to have a positive and meaningful impact on their people. It enables team members and cross-functional groups to achieve collective desired outcomes. It gives employees the ability to feel empowered and exceed performance expectations.

For trust to develop leaders must learn and practice relational intelligence. Relational intelligence is the ability to successfully connect with others and build strong, long-lasting relationships. This is critical in business, where leaders need to create cultures of excellence that are relationship-oriented and foster great employee engagement. Everyone, not only leaders and managers, should focus on building relationships that are based on trust and mutual accountability. Building trust in your work relationships is the way to have life-changing influence with other people.

What Is Relational Intelligence?

Relational intelligence is the ability to successfully connect with others and build strong, long-lasting relationships.

To build great trust, you must first embrace three other relational intelligence skills: establishing rapport, understanding others, and embracing individual differences. Establishing rapport focuses on the initial stages of communication between leaders and their employees. It creates a safe environment for people to form a positive connection. This is the foundation for developing trust. Understanding others is about being intentional in putting in the time and effort to get to know your employees on a deep level. It’s about using EQ, active listening, curiosity, and empathy to build genuine and authentic relationships with others. Lastly, embracing individual differences is about acknowledging and accepting that everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences. It means having a favorable reception towards people who think, act, and behave differently than you do. If you want to develop trust with your employees, you must embrace diversity of thought.

When managers and leaders practice these three important relational intelligence skills, this opens the door for building great trust with their people. Developing trust is the most important skill of relational intelligence. Without trust, leaders cannot get the best out of their employees. It also prevents managers from driving great team effectiveness and job performance. Developing trust is about being vulnerable and taking a risk to be exposed to the actions and behaviors of others. But what are the best ways to develop trust with your people and teams? There are four keys to building trust with others, including:

The 4 Key Factors In Building Trust With Others

  1. Knowing Yourself
  2. Commitment and consistency
  3. Character and integrity
  4. Living with a deposit mentality


1. Knowing Yourself (The Mirror Test)

In order to trust others, you must first know, understand, and trust yourself. As a leader, you must know how you’re wired and what makes you tick. This starts with self-awareness, acknowledging and accepting who you are as a person. If you cannot be truthful with yourself, you will never be able to do it with others. Building dynamic relationships isn’t only about having a deep understanding of who you are. It is about how you live your life. Are you an honest, open, and transparent person? Do you have strong values and morals? Are you a trustworthy person? Can people count on you? The mirror test, as I call it, is being able to stand in front of a mirror and be honest with yourself about who you are as a person. Are you able to identify what you are passionate about and what may frustrate you? Can you discern the things that are important in your life and those that are not as relevant? Once you understand these things you can start to build trust with your employees. 

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2. Commitment and Consistency

Leaders who build trust are committed to their work, goals, and organizational objectives. When you honor your commitments, people have faith you will do it again in the future. People can rely on you in good times and bad. There is a sense of psychological safety and security that comes when employees know you will keep your commitments. When commitment is broken, people distrust the actions and behaviors of their leaders. They start to second-guess your intentions and question the value and importance of your relationships. Consistency is another factor that plays a role in building trust with others. You must show up the same way day-in and day-out for your people. It’s about walking the talk. When you model consistency in your leadership, teams work together more effectively. Your people will work harder and want to exceed performance expectations.


3. Character and Integrity

Your character and integrity matters when it comes to building trust with your employees. Character sets the stage for how you interact with others, how you treat people, and how leaders build long-term relationships. Character is important because it determines how you navigate both good and bad times. A leader who is honest will always place a strong emphasis on building and sustaining trusting relationships. Integrity also serves as a foundation for the impact we have on others. High integrity leaders model the right behaviors for their people. This inspires and motivates employees. It empowers people to do great work for the organization.

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4. Living with a Deposit Mentality

When it comes to great team effectiveness and job performance, leaders must always remember the “the bank account of trust.” This is where you must continually make deposits if you want trust to develop and relationships with your employees to flourish. The concept of reciprocity — the practice of exchange with others for mutual benefit — is a part of this puzzle but developing trust must go a step further. It must come from intentional generosity. Generosity is a sacrifice you make for others when you want relationships to prosper. It is about investing in and nurturing relationships on a regular basis. This takes time and effort. Your deposits must have meaning to your employees. They must show your desire to support the mental and emotional well-being of people. Selfishness is often one of the biggest deterrents to trust. It leads to more withdrawals being made, which can ultimately deplete the account and destroy a relationship. If you make the right deposits and avoid detrimental withdrawals, your people will believe in what you stand for as a leader. 

Having dynamic, life-changing relationships with your employees helps them develop, mature, and grow. When your influence is positive and meaningful, job performance rises, goals and objectives are obtained, and organizations achieve great financial success.

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