Being Responsible & Honest Builds Trust

Trust is defined as “...our willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of others because we believe they have good intentions and will behave well toward us. Shaylene Gupta” This month’s blog topic theme has been about the importance of leadership trust, especially during COVID 19. The challenges of managing your team remotely require your special attention to managing your critical business relationships.  The trust building competencies that have been included so far have been reliability, openness, acceptance and relatability

In the context of the workplace, responsibility and ownership share a very similar relationship to that of responsibility and trust. Being responsible is not complete without ownership. When there is no ownership, leaders cannot expect their employees to deliver quality work. Here’s an example...

In a large company, there might be a team of accountants  in the Finance department specifically responsible for processing payable invoices. On the surface it’s clear that the team is fulfilling their responsibility by processing invoices. However, numerous errors found by controllers show that on an individual level, there is a lack of ownership of work products. When ownership is not emphasized, the mindset: “If everyone is responsible then no one is responsible” can quickly prevail.


Responsibility Is About Taking Ownership

There are many approaches to increasing ownership within a workforce, however they are not all created equal. As a leader, it is your job to decide what will work best. You may have to tweak your approach several times but it’s important not to give up. Because when ownership is a cornerstone of your work environment and culture, you can give assignments to employees and expect quality work and execution according to your standards.

Here are a few ways to ensure that responsibility and ownership go hand-in-hand:

  • Create Measurable Goals- Creating measurable milestones and goals is critically important to set  clear expectations. In collaborative environments, this activity helps ensure work is delivered on time. 

  • Support and Encourage- Often employees might shy away from the ownership because they fear the consequences. To combat this, there needs to be a culture of support, encouragement and psychological safety to speak their truth. 

  • Provide Feedback- Employees can’t be expected to make necessary changes if they’re unaware of issues. Moreover, they need to know their role within your organization’s workflow. Regular team and one-to-one meetings with their manager  helps.

  • Lead by Example- Practice what you preach! It will be very difficult to encourage ownership of responsibilities if employees witness you, leader pointing fingers instead taking ownership and learning from mistakes.



A common complaint employees have about their leaders is dishonesty. Employers may refer to their workforce “as family” to create a cohesive environment. However, leaders have to make difficult decisions when there is a downturn in their business. Reductions in force sometimes are the result that create this breakdown in trust with employees.There is a lot that leaders can do to improve this narrative. Therefore, honesty is the final foundational component of building trusting workplace relationships.

Risks Related to Lack of Honesty

Leaders that fail to be transparent and open with their employees run the risk of creating these business results: 

  • Lower Productivity- If employees can’t trust their leaders, they might spend their working time focused on self-preservation or looking for another job. 

  • HR Costs- Employees often leave when they sense their leaders aren’t honest. As a result, HR spends a lot of time (and money) recruiting. This turnover can cost the employer two to three times the annual pay for this open position. 

  • Low Innovation- If employees are told their opinion matters and encouraged to offer suggestions yet their ideas are never implemented, innovation and new product ideas will suffer.

How to Increase Honesty

To increase honesty, you need to make it an integral part of the business culture. Let’s take a look at  your hiring process. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Check References- Studies have found that desperate job candidates have  falsified  information on their resumes. Information most often falsified are length of time spent in previous positions and education credentials. Taking time to check references at the beginning of the interview process.

  • Zero-tolerance Policy- Create and enforce a zero-tolerance policy regarding deceit. At times, enforcement may seem harsh, but the message needs to be clear. Dishonesty will not be tolerated. Even the smallest exceptions have the potential to negatively affect your culture.

  • Communication and Follow-through- Communication is key! First, encourage employees to voice concerns, offer ideas and seek advice. Second, follow through on your commitments as actions speak louder than words. Leaders should practice transparency by proactively communicating information to employees, especially when a change process is taking place.

No matter the circumstance, do not compromise honesty between you and your employees. (Even if the truth is potentially contentious.) Honesty is a very important aspect of establishing trust and developing a high-performing workforce. 


Being Responsible (with ownership) and being honest fosters trust. When you breach trust with those on your team, it takes time and energy to rebuild interaction at a time. Keep this in mind and you’ll be contributing to a work environment where trusting relationships can flourish. If you’d like to discuss ways to increase trust in your organization, contact me.