A Leader’s Guide to Rebuilding Team Trust

Trust is essential for any team to function effectively. When team members trust each other, they communicate more openly, share ideas more often, and collaborate better. Overall, trusting those you work with leads to a more positive, productive, and successful work environment. However, trust can be challenging to maintain and when trust is broken, it can lead to damaging consequences. Fortunately, broken trust can be repaired. While repairing trust can be a difficult process, when done effectively, it can strengthen a relationship and make it more resilient to future challenges. 

For insight on how to rebuild team trust as a leader, check out this video by David Burkus:  

 Additionally, here is a summary of David Burkus’s 5 steps to rebuild trust on a team: 

  1. Own the Failure. It’s important that you take ownership of whatever failure led to the team’s broken trust, whether the fault was directly yours or not. As a leader, you are responsible for your team and their actions. When you own the failure, you not only acknowledge that something has damaged the trust in your team, but indicate that it must be explicitly addressed, as you are committed to restoring it. 
  2. Understand the Consequences. Before you can begin repairing your team’s trust, you must first understand the consequences of the failure. You can’t sincerely address the breach of trust unless you understand how your team members feel about it and accept their legitimacy. 
  3. Apologize. Once you’ve owned your failure and taken the consequences into account, you must sincerely apologize. This means that you should accept full responsibility, regardless of fault. Do not make excuses and do not justify your actions. Simply apologize with no strings attached. Modeling an authentic apology may then inspire others to apologize and work toward rebuilding trust in the team.  
  4. Outline the Correction. It’s not enough to apologize—corrective action must be taken. First, outline what you and your team will do to make amends for the breach of trust. Then, outline how you and your team will prevent such failures from occurring in the future. For trust to be rebuilt, you and your team must figure out what happened and why it happened, and then commit to keeping it from happening again. 
  5. Ask for Help. One person is not enough to execute the outlined corrections. Even if only one person is responsible for the failure, others can help keep them accountable. Therefore, you need to ask for help. Not only will asking for help encourage shared ownership of the corrective actions, but it will signal that you trust your team and refuel the trust cycle. 


  • Erica Medrano

    Erica is a graduate student in industrial-organizational psychology and Associate Consultant at CMA. She received her Bachelor of Science in psychology with from University of Georgia in 2018, then went on to receive her Master of Science from the Florida Institute of Technology in 2020, where she is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in industrial-organizational psychology. She is passionate about using research to make a positive impact on the workplace, with an emphasis on leadership, teams, and well-being.

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