Trust and Confidence – The Super Duo for Leaders!

In life you are fortunate to have true friendships that bridge distance and career. I was honored when my friend and colleague Vicki Ryan recently asked me to write something for her blog, and it got me thinking about how important the ability to build trust and inspire confidence are in life and work. All that thinking resulted in this article. To learn about the creative learning and development work that Vicki does, just go to

Do People Trust You? Do You Inspire Confidence?

If you don’t know these answers, now is the time to figure it out. There are many leadership factors that impact your trajectory of success, but this combo is the big Kahuna! Trust and confidence are like a wave and the surfboard. Building trust inspires confidence.

Leaders can’t lead successfully if the team doesn’t follow. When you need your team to try something new, to rely on your judgement, or to believe what you are saying, how they respond next depends on what you have said and done up until then. Every action you have taken as a leader or teammate impacts the quality of trust and confidence you inspire in others. The stronger the foundation of trust, the more confidence people will have. Confidence and trust ensure others are standing with you when things get tough when support and loyalty are at their most critical.

What does it take to be confident? A friend once told me “what you know about yourself no one can take away from you”. He was spot on. In the many times that I’ve wondered if I was up to a new challenge, I relied on the experience and expertise built over decades. CONFIDENCE is bred by COMPETENCE. As your career develops, you build a reservoir of knowledge to fall back on situations. When you know your “stuff,” you project strength and confidence. But what happens when you don’t? What happens when you are early in your career, or when you get that great new opportunity? Your sense of competence may be threatened by a steep new learning curve.

Some may tell you to “fake it ‘til you make it” but that behavior is just that. It’s fake. Fake destroys trust and confidence. It chips away at your foundation because it is a thin veneer that leaves you feeling vulnerable and wondering when you’ll be found out. That’s exhausting isn’t it? Not to mention it’s often obvious to others who actually do know the answers. Try leading that way, and the first time you make a mistake, your new team is likely to stand back and let you fall on your face.

In my experience the opposite approach is far more effective. You may be new to a role or a company, and while highly qualified for the job, you don’t yet know the new team or culture, e.g. how people collaborate, communicate or even the way to the restroom. News flash, your team knows you don’t, won’t, and cannot have all the answers. In both scenarios you must rely on the resident knowledge of your team, peers and boss to succeed. By admitting this and asking for help, you immediately start earning regard and respect aka Building Trust, Inspiring Confidence. This is the time when your confidence is reflected in your candor and humility. And this powerful combination comes together to drive results and reach business goals. A true win-win.


Here are my top 10:

  1. Shh, be quiet…
    Spend more time listening than talking. Give the speaker your undivided attention, don’t interrupt You’ll be amazed at what you learn about the what is going on if you just stop talking.
  2. Tell me more…
    You can’t know if you don’t ask. Be sure to get the whole story rather than making assumptions. Become a pro at probing and asking questions.
  3. Do I have your attention?
    No matter how much you have going on, when you’re in a meeting, be fully present. It’s disrespectful to read email or take calls when someone is sitting across the desk from you.
  4. It’s not all about you…
    Don’t hog the spotlight, point it at others. You may be the leader, but your team does the heavy lifting. Be sure to recognize their contributions privately and publicly.
  5. Learn from mistakes
    Stuff happens! When something goes wrong, spend your energy finding out how to get it right the next time, rather than moaning about the outcome. Think lemonade, not lemons.
  6. Never point the finger
    Remember the old saying “the buck stops here”? Don’t try and deflect blame for a problem by laying it at someone else’s feet. As the leader you own the good, the bad and the ugly.
  7. Tell them the truth
    It’s counterproductive to hide the truth to spare a team member’s feelings. If they are not going to get that promotion, help them to understand why, and how to build the skills or change the behaviors that got in the way.
  8. Communicate, communicate, communicate
    Tell them what you can, when you can. If there is whispering about downsizing or restructuring, let the team know that you’ll keep them informed as decisions are made, and then do it.
  9. Do what you say you will do
    A commitment obligates you to do what you said you would do, so don’t make promises you can’t deliver. Broken promises are trust blasters.
  10. Speak right up
    Make it safe for team members to disagree with a decision or offer alternative strategies. When you create an atmosphere that encourages debate and new ideas, its like lightening in a bottle!


Which of these do you feel good about, and which make you cringe? Want to change how you show up?

  1. Start acting with more intention.
  2. Be present in each moment.
  3. Catch yourself when you aren’t modeling behaviors that build trust and inspire confidence.
  4. Repeat!!