All Articles Leadership Management The 1-on-1 nature of building a high-trust culture

The 1-on-1 nature of building a high-trust culture

Leaders who capitalize on the small moments in their organization lay the foundation for a larger purpose -- to create a culture built on trusting relationships.

3 min read



Bridget and Craig are in an elevator, zooming towards the top floor of their company’s headquarters. Bridget is a vice president. Late for a meeting, she’s engrossed in texting her ETA to her colleagues. Meanwhile, Craig, who reports to one of Bridget’s team members, wonders if he should take this chance to pitch an idea that he has about a new marketing campaign directly to Bridget.

Lost in thought, Bridget never looks up. The elevator “dings” as they arrive at the 10th floor. Both parties disembark and move on to their respective meetings, with Bridget briefly giving Craig a distracted smile as she moves away.

An opportunity lost.

Craig lost an opportunity to make a pitch to his team leader’s boss. And just as importantly, Bridget lost an opportunity to build trust with a member of her team.

Mundane situations like sharing an elevator ride with a colleague are ripe with opportunity for leaders to build trust with those around them. Different from (but just as important as) uplifting pep talks and ethical actions, these are the simple building blocks of creating a culture of trust. It’s in these moments that relationships are built, through conversation and simple daily actions.

“When leaders take the opportunity build relationships with employees in those small moments, it goes a long way to building trust overall in the organization,” notes Jessica Rohman, director of content for Great Place to Work, a global research and consulting firm that studies workplace best practices and their impact on organizational culture.

Leaders who capitalize on the small moments in their organization lay the foundation for a larger purpose — to create a culture built on trusting relationships.

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Rohman, whose organization has collected over 30 years’ worth of data on what makes workplaces “great,” cites compelling evidence for building what GPTW calls a “high-trust culture.” In GPTW’s white paper “The Business Case for a  High-Trust Culture,” companies with high levels of trust have stock market returns two to three times greater than the market average. Additionally, they have turnover rates that are 50% lower than industry competitors.

Building a culture of trust is largely one-to-one in nature. Over time, those simple interactions accumulate and help create rapport and camaraderie, which are key ingredients for a high-performing workplace. Are you capitalizing on those small moments in ways that affirm your interest in those you work with? The elevator rides, the lunch line in the cafeteria, the walk in from the company parking lot — all are opportunities to build trust, should you choose to see it that way.

Distraction and time pressures often blind leaders to one of the simplest and most cost-effective methods of building trust: human connection. Don’t squander these opportunities. Sadly, Bridget probably doesn’t even realize what she missed. In a busy world, keep interactions with your team members top-of-mind so those brief moments don’t pass you by. It could be “just an elevator ride.” Or maybe it’s the chance to make a positive impact with a member of your team.


Jennifer V. Miller is a freelance writer and leadership development consultant. She helps business professionals lead themselves and others towards greater career success. Join her Facebook community The People Equation and sign up for her free tip sheet: “Why is it So Hard to Shut Up? 18 Ways to THINK before you Speak.”

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