Trust Must Be More Than a Pretty Word: 4 Concrete Examples on How to Implement Trust in Your Organization

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Written by: Tobias Günther

Trust is one of those very waxy, abstract topics.

Most modern leaders understand that they need to take it seriously. But they have a hard time actually developing it. Because there’s only little material out there that shows you how to put it into practice!

In this essay, I’ll give you 4 concrete examples you can use in your own team.

How Trust Works

Before I present these tools, let’s talk a minute about how trust “works”. I’ve written extensively about this in a previous essay — aptly titled “How Trust Works” — but let’s revisit the gist of it real quick:

Trust is reciprocated. It must be given, first.

This is critical to understand. You can make bold announcements that trust is a core value for your team; you can put it on posters; you can try commanding people to be more trusting… but you won’t succeed unless you understand the mechanics.

Trust doesn’t materialize out of thin air.

It’s on us, as founders and leaders, to start giving it.

Demonstrating Trust Through Policies

Trust can exist on different levels. Two of the main ones are:

  1. Interpersonal trust, which is developed particularly by building strong relationships.
  2. Organizational trust, which is developed through clear and public policies.

I have already written (and will write more) about the first kind — interpersonal trust.
In this essay, however, I’ll focus on the second kind.

Public policies are a wonderful way to develop this. They’re one of the strongest signals of trust that we can send as leaders.

Why? Because as soon as we’ve molded something into a policy, there’s no way to hide!
It’s been written down in our intranet wiki.
For everyone to see.

Now, let’s talk about 4 example policies that we teach in our “[Building Better Teams]” masterclass — and that many teams are using with great success.

(1) No-Ask Purchasing Policy

A “no-ask purchasing policy” allows employees to spend company money without having to ask for permission from a manager. They get access to the company credit card or bank account to make purchases on their own.

This is helpful on multiple levels:

  • It encourages people to make their own decisions…
  • …and take on more responsibility.
  • Finally, of course, it demonstrates that leadership trusts them!

When managers are reluctant to implement something like this, it’s helpful to keep something in mind: these people have intact private lives where they make decisions about huge investments like buying a car, a house, etc.

They’re adults and can be treated as such!

(2) Flexible Work Schedules

A lot of companies have “flexible work schedules” in one way or another. But even if they do, most of them don’t go far enough with this concept. Here are a couple of probing questions to help you go further:

  • Do you really need fixed schedules where people HAVE to start and end their work days at certain times?
  • Do you need to time-track people?
  • Can you instead trust people to invest the right amount of time to reach their goals and agreements?

How exactly you implement this concept of “flexible work schedules” will depend on your business: e.g. some companies might indeed have to use some form of time tracking, simply because they are billing their customers by the hour. But no matter what exact situation your organization is in: it’s worth thinking this topic through to see if some of the existing rules can be removed or at least relaxed.

(3) Paying Salaries in Advance

Almost anywhere in the world, salaries are paid at the end of the month — after an employee has delivered their work and invested their time.

Why not pay salaries at the beginning of the month, before the work was done?

It’s a tiny change, admittedly. But a strong signal of trust to your employees nonetheless.

(4) No-Limit Vacation Policy

In my own journey of demonstrating more and more trust to my teams, I finally landed on a “no-limit vacation policy”.

I had asked myself if it was really, absolutely necessary to put a fixed limit to the maximum number of holidays anyone could take… Couldn’t people be trusted to take this into their own hands?

It turned out they could! In many years of having this practice in place, it had never been misused.

But before you go and implement this policy tomorrow, I’d like to read the rest of the “patient information leaflet” to you. Because this is definitely the 800-pound Gorilla of policies — and not one to implement lightly.

The main caveat is that it will only work if you have already created a stable culture. Don’t do this too early. Keep this policy in your drawer for a little while longer — and put it into practice once you’ve made progress in other areas of your company culture.

Policies Make Trust Visible and Tangible

I’ve already said it: there’s no way around *interpersonal trust* if we want to build stronger relationships and better collaboration. (I promise to dive deeper into this in future essays…)

But we shouldn’t dismiss another way to build trust — the organizational type — by implementing strong policies. If done right, these policies can have a powerful effect that makes trust visible, tangible, and reliable for employees.

Feel free to implement some of the examples I’ve written about in this essay.
Or adapt them.
Or invent your own.

But make sure that trust becomes more than just a pretty word in your organization.

Take care,

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