Between you, me and the lamppost, tell me–do you trust your boss? How about your colleagues? Or your employees? And equally important, do they trust you?

It was years ago I learned an important lesson about trust.

At the time, I was a newly appointed Director of Communication and Promotions at a national museum and just getting to know my employee team. One of my employees was named Debbie (not her real name) and she was responsible for purchasing advertising and developing promo campaigns. From my perspective, I gave her what I thought was lots of latitude. In return, she gave me attitude.

While being inexcusable, Debbie’s behaviour was somewhat understandable. She was bitter as she had acted in the position I now held, and had hoped (perhaps assumed?) that she would be the chosen candidate. And now, I had the dubious privilege of managing her.

When Debbie was recommending expenditures in the five-figures, I asked for rationale. I knew that I would be questioned in the boardroom by my C-level colleagues and I wanted to ensure that I could respond and defend the decisions.

When I asked Debbie to explain her rationale she responded with only two words — “Trust me”. This happened not once, not twice, but to the point that it was her chronic response to my questions for clarification.

Trust her? I didn’t even know her. 

I was new to the organization and learning the hows and whys of everything, including the decisions of my own staff. I didn’t know Debbie’s modus operandi, her track record, or how her brain worked. We had no history together, although she had a good track record I referred to, along with a few comments colleagues confided that gave me cause to pause. I leaned into the numbers and the strategy behind her actions. Without her explaining them to me, I didn’t know what they were.

People can’t read your mind, only your actions.

You communicate what you think by the words you use and the actions you take. When I was asking Debbie to share with me what was in her mind so I could better understand (and explain to my boss), her “trust me” response didn’t cut it. I didn’t know her well enough to simply trust with blind faith. I needed to understand the logic and motivation behind the decisions.

It took me some time, perhaps years of reflection, to figure out why her “trust me” response didn’t feel right. 

I finally was able to enunciate what was missing and why this “trust me” approach didn’t work. It was because we didn’t have history together and some of her actions were fairly high risk in terms of budget being spent. The higher the risk, the more trust is required before readily accepting recommendations and actions. Conversely, the higher the trust level between you and another person, the higher the amount of risk you are willing to assume. Therefore, the goal for leaders is to build that trust.

Building trust takes time.

The reason why trust takes time is that, with time, you build history. With history, you can step back and see patterns. You come to know who is reliable or not; who does what they say they’re going to do, or not. 

And that’s the key right there. It’s so simple, it may shock you …

THE SECRET TO BUILDING TRUST: Do what you say you’re going to do.

That’s it. That’s all. It’s as simple as that. Do what you say you’re going to do. With repetition, the passage of time, and experience, people will trust you and you, them.

If you say you’re going to call at 10am, call then. If you say you’re going to arrive at 7:30pm, be there. If you tell your team you’ll have your comments to them by end of business day, make sure you do.

Although the “do what you say you’re going to do” rule may be simple, rest assured it’s not always easy. Life happens, things get in the way. You might commit to things out of obligation or guilt and lose your momentum before you actually do whatever it was you said you would. If that sounds like you, you are teaching people that you can’t be counted on, you’re not reliable, and you can’t be trusted to do what you say you’re going to do.

You don’t have to be one of those people.

Instead, you can choose to flip that behaviour around and commit to what you know you will do, and do what you commit to. When you do, you will not only build trust — you will also distinguish yourself from anyone else.

This simple and pure action builds trust because it’s so rare

It’s a rather sad comment on human behavior that people doing what they say they’re going to do is fairly unique. Here’s the great news: It spells an opportunity for you. Trust me (because you ca): It will work ;o)

©2023 Marion Grobb Finkelstein (MarionSpeaks)

Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation” 
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Leadership communication expert, Marion Grobb Finkelstein shows leaders at any level how to build resilient and respectful workplaces by changing how they communicate. Chat with her at or and sign up for her FREE “Marion’s Communication Tips” at

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Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

One Comment

  • Stephanie says:

    This article was timely! I had a lovely conversation just this week with colleagues about the importance of trust and how fortunate we all were to work together. Trust is something that is earned.

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