Fortune magazine recently collaborated with The Leadership Insider Network for a forum in NYC. The Leadership Insider Network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute to the overall business community about careers and leadership. The main topic of NYC forum was how do you successfully build trust with your employees?

Well, when it comes to building trust, the group of CEOs gathered believe too many leaders have it all wrong. Many have worked for companies where there was a pervasive undercurrent of mistrust at all levels of the organization- between leaders and leaders, leaders and employees, and among employees themselves. But the mere fact that this issue comes up so often is a clear indicator that, regardless of all the management literature, it continues to be a problem. So how do you not let it become a problem in the first place?

Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify, has a test for every C-Suite executive to run on themselves. “Here’s your first test: Look yourself in the mirror. Really look. Pick an average person in your company and put yourself in his or her shoes. Would you be jazzed to wake up and come to work every day? Motivated and happy to contribute? If you can’t say yes -unequivocally and without hesitation- then something needs to change.”


In addition to her mirror test, Leaman also has drafted a set of five rules to live by so that every person at Axonify feels her mantra when they arrive at the office- “that today is going to be fun.” She stresses to become enlightened, be transparent, don’t be a jerk, recognize and reward performing employees, and deal with problems quickly.


Setting the bar and then being the example for your team is a key piece in the puzzle in building trust. Another piece of that puzzle is chemistry. Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow, believes chemistry is the bedrock of a healthy work environment.  “It’s hard to gain trust in someone you have no chemistry with, it’s hard to have chemistry with someone you don’t respect, and it’s hard to have respect for someone you don’t trust.” Harwood continues, “I’ve learned that colleagues forgive mistakes- they even forgive bad business judgment from time to time- but it’s almost impossible to fake chemistry over the long haul.”


The CEOs shared that you may actually need to re-gain employee trust after initially establishing it. That single act can be easier said than done. David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global, shares his experience and advice after visiting one of 3Pillar Global’s larger offices and discovered fundamental communication issues.


DeWolf explains, “Over the course of several days, I worked with the management team to resolve what we discovered was a fundamental lack of trust within the team itself. They simply weren’t talking with one another because they didn’t trust each other. This led to a several month process of reestablishing the relationships we needed to succeed.”


Here’s how he suggests to do it in your own office- be blunt and then others will follow.  “I acknowledged the problem. Through conversation we eventually discovered the core issue: over time, many members of the team admitted to lacking a fundamental trust in their teammates.”


Trust happens every day and starts at the top. Trust takes a CEO with sincere mindfulness and honesty in action. When employees see that being delivered, then management teams of all structures can thoroughly succeed.