By Dr. Brian Harman and Geoff Koboldt – original article on LinkedIn

The keys to building trust to accelerate your career, within a company.

When trust is high, cost goes down and speed goes up (Covey & Merrill, 2006). But when trust is low, costs soar and the team moves at snail’s pace.

Think of any relationship, friendship, or even your spouse. When there’s high trust, you can make better decisions faster, and with less emotional resources. Same concept here. That’s why managers and leaders must prioritize team synergy, attitude, and personal relationships. Because every interaction is a chance to improve trust, keep it neutral, or degrade it.

Trust the Process

It was day 1 of my new job. My new boss took me and 2 others out to lunch. One of them, a 50+ year old, had been demoted and I was now taking his job. There was a push by our GM to get rid of the other guy who was a younger twenty-something and rubbed them the wrong way. Awkward situation, but I knew I had to build trust fast.

I quickly assessed the work situation and found a lack of processes in place, a lack of camaraderie, and a lack of genuine leadership.

Being well-versed in lean methodologies, I coached the materials team on basic housekeeping principles of 5S (sort-set-shine-standardize-sustain). “Wow, I don’t have to walk 20 feet to search for what I need anymore – it’s right next to me now, one of the guys on the manufacturing floor said.”

Over the next few months, everything had a home and there were weekly audits to ensure compliance.

I kept reinforcing, “Trust the process.”

Productivity went up.

People started to smile.

My boss was happy.

In the office, I had to dial in numerous processes to ensure that our forecasting and purchasing were under control. There’s nothing worse than stocking out of product and holding up production, and inevitably affecting the customer.

The team got efficient.

Zero stockouts.

Financial metrics were improving.

People started to smile.

My boss was happy.

Again, I kept reinforcing, “Trust the process.”

I’ll never forget my first week on the job and my GM said, “I need you to fix this material GAP ($’s waste/units produced) problem.” I didn’t know anyone as I had no relationships built yet. They were already working long hours and now I had to pull them off the floor for hours to map out processes and build standard work. It was painful at first; spending 2-3 hours in meetings to root cause the issues.

The key was to remove blame. I didn’t even call anyone out on their ignorance or lack of accountability. Believe me, I wanted to… but my boss reminded me to simply focus on the process. It was a great learning lesson for me as I learned to craft my messaging focused on taking care of the customer and getting the buy-in from everyone.

9 months later, I wrapped up that project. We had achieved a whopping $1.4M in cost savings. That took us from 11th place to 5th place out of 18 plants for material GAP.

My boss was happy.

My GM was happy.

The President was super happy.

Most importantly, I saw the genuine happiness of my team – coming into work smiling and proud of their success. They were finally earning a 10% bonus, each quarter, which was tied to the success of hitting all the metrics.

In fact, after 14 months, the materials team earned the #1 position among 18 plants in the US.

Unfortunately, the housing market and construction were tanking, and sales were significantly declining.

After 15 months of building trust and crushing the metrics, I was laid off with 5 other managers and 200+ employees. The irony was that the young guy they wanted me to get rid of – I coached him and 15 years later, he still works there.

How to build trust?

To build the kind of trust that accelerates your career, you must remember that trust contains 2 main components: character and competence (Covey & Merrill, 2006). I would argue that the first part of that equation is always the most important.

To build trust on the character side, stop answering the question “how are you?” with replies like, “good, just busy.” Instead, give people around you the gift of connection by elevating small talk to medium talk or dare I say, deep conversation. It starts with you. Answer deeply and you’ll get deep answers back in return. Nobody ever opened up to someone who wasn’t open themselves.

“Hey, how are you?”

“Good. You?”

“Oh, good. See you later.”

Alternatively, here’s a much better approach:

“Hey, how are you?”

“Hey, Geoff! This week I went out of town with my family. My dogs stayed with Grandma and Grandpa. We had such a blast because it’s been over a year since our last trip. We stayed at a hotel and we enjoyed nice dinners. We walked over 8 miles per day. My favorite part was the ostrich farm because my son got to feed them.”

Now, when you ask them the same question back, they won’t answer with a short, “oh, I’m good.”

This concept can be used in all conversations and interactions, from strangers to close family members. Think of trust like a mirror. Whatever you display, you’ll get back. Trust is a reciprocal emotion and intentional feeling so you’ve got to be the one that opens up if you want trust back from others. The deeper you go, the more you’ll get back.

When people are reluctant, continue to share details and longer responses. Only after you’ve exhausted your opinions or contributions or stories should you then probe others with how and why questions.

Openness and vulnerability are critical ingredients in the trust building process. It takes a lot of deliberate discussion. It takes a lot effort.

Try going deeper in your next conversation instead of glossing it over like another lackluster greeting.


Covey, S. R., & Merrill, R. R. (2006). The speed of trust: The one thing that changes everything. Simon and Schuster.

If you care about people, relationships, and trust, join Geoff Koboldt and Dr. Brian Harman as they continue their series of co-authored articles on the topics of trust and leadership. Make sure you go follow/connect with Brian for more great content.

Check out our first articleThe Scary Secrets Of Self-Trust That’ll Scale Your Success Beyond Boundaries Sooner Than Later

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