The Three Drivers of Trust

Published: February 12, 2015

Every interaction either adds or subtracts from the trust of a partnership. Whether you give trust freely or require it to be earned, it grows and shrinks continuously. When you look closely into the aspects of interpersonal exchange that populate a typical workplace, the disparity in willingness to take risks amongst teammates makes sense. Consider the three primary drivers of trust: connection, respect, and accountability.

True engagement between teammates requires consistent investment. The earliest personal investments create an adequate foundation for collaboration but truly innovative teamwork requires a continuous outlay of emotional capital. Connection cultures are forged by talent that is energized by giving rather than taking.

An unconditional positive regard for a teammate communicates an appreciation for difference. A diversity-friendly workplace practices respectful exchange, especially under pressure. Because we are human, knowing how to repair a broken connection is a key competency on those occasions when breached trust needs to be mended.

At a micro level, accountability means you do what you say you’re going to do. You follow through. You meet deadlines. You keep promises. At a macro level, accountability means you are true to the mission and vision of the organization. That is the contract you signed when you agreed to be compensated for your job description. Beyond the performance of your role tasks on the team, you vowed to behave the values of the culture in every interaction.

We make choices on a daily basis that augment and detract from trust in the workplace. Everything you say and do counts. This is measurable. Just ask your teammates.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.