Are You a New Manager? Here is a Simple Framework to Build Trust With Your New Team

If you’re a new manager, you probably have a bunch of things that you want to work on with your new team. I remember the very first time that I was put in charge of a team and I spent a whole weekend at home planning exactly what I needed to do with them. It included all of the good stuff – objectives, targets, personal development planning, team building, meetings etc.

All of this was good stuff, but looking back, I underestimated the importance of one thing: trust.

Sure, I understood that trust was important, but I started from a position of expecting to be trusted and therefore, I didn’t have to worry about it too much. 

I was right. The team that I took on naturally trusted me because they knew me already. I’d been promoted from their peer to their manager and had earned their trust in the process.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was incredibly fortunate to have this trust already and that in reality, a lot of new managers don’t have this.

When you don’t naturally have trust from a new team, you need to be very deliberate about building it. You need to have a plan and to focus on it.

Without trust, everything else that you’ll need to do as a manager will become 100x more difficult and frankly, your team (and you) is almost certainly going to fail if you don’t have at least a moderate level of trust. For example, As Ben Horowitz says in The Hard Thing About Hard Things, communication is far more efficient when a team trusts you. Given how crucial effective communication is to your success, it being damaged by a lack of trust could be a huge issue.

Of course, building trust can happen naturally over time and without much conscious effort. This is the ideal solution to this problem and was what happened for me in my first experience as a new manager because I had some trust already.

This wasn’t the case later in my career where I took on team members who didn’t know me at all and I needed to earn their trust in a very structured and deliberate way. It probably won’t be the case for most of you who are new managers and working with a team for the first time.

It’s very easy to get wrong

The thing is, most managers get it wrong.

Most new managers will focus on a lot of the right things when taking over management of people, yet they will still fail to realise just how important trust is and the extent to which it can enable everything that they have planned to come to fruition.

Even those who do realise the importance of trust will tend to focus more on trust from their own perspective and their own need to trust their team members. They can assume that trust is automatically given in the other direction by virtue of their experience and seniority. 

This can lead to a cognitive dissonance between the manager and their team members.

On the other hand, some managers will do the opposite and try too hard to build trust quickly, sometimes using team building exercises that can be a bit gimmicky. Or even just trying to force something to happen too quickly but not backing it up with their day-to-day actions and behaviours.

New managers make the mistake of thinking that it’s all about them – their skills, knowledge and experience. They believe that these things are enough to earn the trust of their team.

But the thing is, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

An actionable, effective framework for earning trust

There are two things that drive your ability to earn trust from your team:

  1. Behaviours – what you do day-to-day in your role, both working generally on projects and with individuals.
  2. Actions – it’s often said that actions speak louder than words and it’s true. The actions you take, the decisions you make, are huge contributors to earning (or losing) trust.

Let’s look at each one in more detail and see what you can do with each in mind.


My core advice when it comes to your behaviours is to be deliberately authentic. Don’t fake authenticity, it will be very obvious. But you do need to be deliberate with it and proactively think about displaying authenticity with your day-to-day behaviours.

In Ride of a Lifetime, Disney CEO Bob Iger talks about the idea that truth and authenticity breed respect and trust. It can be hard to remember this, even with the best intentions, when things get hard or very busy. Hence the need to deliberately focus on it.

Displaying vulnerability is another key way to build trust with your team. No team expects you to be impervious to problems and to handle every single situation flawlessly. So don’t try to meet an unrealistic expectation and more importantly, don’t be afraid to display vulnerability when you’re dealing with difficult decisions or situations.

Of course, you need to balance this against confidence and believing in yourself (and your team) that you will overcome these challenges. But don’t be afraid to show a bit of vulnerability occasionally. It will do wonders for trust and team building and show that it’s okay for your team to do the same.


As we’ve discussed, actions speak louder than words. If you ask your team to trust you to do something and you then fail to do it, you’ve damaged trust. If you do this multiple times, you’ll lose that trust completely and they won’t believe anything you say. Sure, they’ll nod along because you’re the senior figure in the situation, but inwardly (and probably to each other) they’ll be shaking their heads.

Bill Campbell, coach to leaders such as Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg and Jeff Bezos, once said that the most important currency in any relationship is trust.

He gave some very specific definitions of trust that we can connect to actions that you can take as a manager and leader.

Trust means that you:

  • You keep your word: if you say that you’re going to do something, you do it. If something changes and means that you can’t do it, then be open and honest about it and don’t ignore the situation.
  • Loyalty: you show loyalty to your team and always have their backs, whilst offering them candid feedback when they need it.
  • Integrity: every action that you take and every decision you make is done with integrity. Even if you get a decision wrong, you can hold your head up high and say that you did so with integrity and the right intentions.
  • Discretion: when you’re dealing with situations and having conversations, you exercise discretion and never disclose anything that would damage trust from your team.

By taking a proactive approach to building trust and not assuming that you’ll get it by virtue of your position, you’ll be in a better position to be an effective leader. Once you have a good level of trust, everything else that you do as a manager will be far, far easier and more effective.

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