The importance of trust in the workplace was something I did not understand early in my career. I was more concerned with progress and performance. But as I’ve grown as a leader, now serving as Director of Marketing at Salesforce, I’ve come to realize that progress and performance are dependent on trust. I would go so far as to say that if a team or an individual is underperforming, there might be a level of trust that has been broken.

I remember being part of a team where we weren't “rowing in the same direction.” My manager sent out a questionnaire for us to fill out anonymously and specifically asked us about how we can improve our collaboration as a team.

After reviewing the responses, he gathered us all together to talk through the issues. What a bold move!

What surfaced was a root of broken trust. A history of random re-orgs, unintentional hurt feelings, and a perceived lack of appreciation all built up and slowly eroded our trust in leadership and each other. However, that meeting opened the door to transparency and vulnerability — and it was a huge turning point for our team. I always will remember that manager and his desire to develop trust.

From my own career experience, here are 5 “Be's” I've learned that can build a greater level of trust:

  1. Be Personal. I've told my previous team that my biggest regret was that I didn't get to know them personally earlier. There was so much work to do, and I was focused on progress. But remembering that progress and performance is tied to trust, I pivoted and began to invest more in the relationships. Having lunch with them (vs. working through lunch), showing up for more non-work related activities, etc. not only increased trust, but I began to enjoy my job more. Win win!
  2. Be Bold. Every direct wants to know that their manager has their back and will remove barriers. Being bold builds trust. I'm not talking about an obnoxious, cocky attitude; more like understanding what your team needs and going after it. Even if you can't get them everything they're requesting, they'll begin to trust that you'll fight for them.
  3. Be Responsive. Even the best-intended communication is hollow if it's not followed by corresponding action. Say you’ll do something only if you're able to follow through, and don’t commit if there's a chance that you won’t be able to deliver. Breaking a commitment can destroy trust you’ve built as well as make people less inclined to trust you in the future.
  4. Be Transparent. When we, as leaders, acknowledge our mistakes as well as our successes, our directs begin to see us as credible and will follow our lead. Encourage honest dialogue and foster accountability. Last year I created a hashtag #DreamJobTips on Chatter, our internal social network, that came from a place of my own growth as a leader as well as lessons I learned throughout my career. I'm not saying that you need to start a Chatter hashtag, but the point is that you can — and should be — transparent about your own growth.
  5. Be vulnerable. Healthy relationships grow during hard conversations. When you're vulnerable (not emotional), it opens the door to increased trust in the relationship. A colleague once pulled me aside and shared that she was having a hard time trusting me due to a few things I'd said in passing. Though I meant nothing by my comments, it broke trust between us. If she hadn't told me, I would never have known, and the relationship would've probably gotten worse. If you feel there's even a small amount of trust broken, be bold and talk with that individual. It can be scary, but it's worth the risk.

Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship — whether it's personal or professional. It isn't just Salesforce's #1 value we need have with our customers; it's also the #1 value that we, as leaders, need to champion on our own teams.

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