How to Build Trust and Collaboration in the Workplace

By: Corey Blake, CEO in Psychological Safety

Building trust and fostering collaboration in the workplace have become more critical than ever. As a leader, one of your primary roles is to create an environment where trust can flourish, enabling your team to collaborate effectively, innovate fearlessly, and achieve remarkable results.

Because trust in the work environment is so integral to creativity and innovation, investing in initiatives to build trust at your workplace is not just a nice-to-have but a necessity if you want to thrive.

At Round Table Companies (RTC), we have spent nearly two decades working with organizations, diving deep into the dynamics of trust and collaboration, first by guiding CEOs through the vulnerable process of writing the book they were born to write, then through our work deepening trust at conferences and events around the country (for clients including Microsoft, ADP, Marketo and Workday), and now through our focus of deepening trust within company cultures.

Through our 20 years of establishing profound trust with our clients and their stakeholders, we’ve developed a unique approach that goes beyond surface-level platitudes and dives into the heart of what connects team members to one another through a shared sense of awe that can move mountains.

In this blog post, we’ll share our insights and strategies, providing you with a roadmap to build confidence in the workplace; to turn your organization into a haven of trust, collaboration, and what we call “leapfrog” success. We'll explore the core drivers of trust in teams, the importance of vulnerability as a trust-building vehicle, and practical strategies for modeling trustworthy behavior, facilitating purposeful conversations, and encouraging the suspension of judgment so your employees feel safe to bring more of themselves to work.

So, let’s uncover the power of you, as a leader, to build trust in the workplace and inspire greater collaboration within your team.

leapfrogging (v.): the ability for every member of a team or group to progress beyond or move ahead of an obstacle (physical, mental, or emotional) in a quick, advanced way so they may trust and communicate more deeply

Understanding the Importance of Trust and Collaboration

Before diving into the strategies, it’s important to understand why trust and collaboration are so crucial to the workplace. Let’s start with the impact trust has on your people as individuals.

Employees who experience high-trust relationships see a positive impact on their physical and mental health, which contributes to how much of themselves they bring into your workplace.

  • According to a study by Harvard Business Review, employees in high-trust organizations report 74 percent less stress, 106 percent more energy at work, and 50 percent higher productivity compared to their peers in low-trust workplaces.1

When trust is the foundation of your team dynamics, team members feel more comfortable taking risks, expressing their ideas, and bringing their unique talents and gifts to the company without fear of consequences.

  • A survey by Salesforce found that employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.2

And at the organizational level, trust enables open communication, healthy debate, and constructive feedback, leading to better decision-making and continuous improvement.

  • A global survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) revealed that high-performance organizations are 5.5 times more likely to encourage collaboration than low-performance organizations.3

When people within your organization—across all teams and departments—trust one another with their ideas, communicate openly, and collaborate freely, the impossible becomes possible.

Let’s dive into some ways to build trust in the workplace!

Strategy 1

Show Your People Your Core Values in Action to Increase Workplace Trust

The answer to the question, how can we build trust in the workplace? begins with you—the leader. You set the tone for what trustworthiness looks like (or doesn’t). It will be paramount that you demonstrate what it is to hold the line on your core values across your decisions (large and small), in your interactions with others, and in how you coach your team to succeed.

If you think you do all of this intuitively, please allow me to introduce you to your blind spot.

Even the most well-intentioned leaders struggle to consistently align their behavior to who they claim to be through their company core values. Why? Because we each have a unique set of triggers that can send us into a threat response; a place from which we become less predictable, and—as a result—less trustworthy.

You, too, are a complex human being. You experience emotions, stress, and triggers like anybody else. And your stress response can lead to unproductive behaviors that—if you’re not mindful—will directly violate your company values. Take a moment and reflect:

  • When was the last time you unintentionally took out your frustrations or bad mood on a team member?

  • When was the last time you retreated or disappeared into your personal life when the going got tough (thereby appearing “absent” to your people)?

  • When was the last time you inadvertently cast aside your values in response to someone else who appeared to cast them aside first?!?

In these moments, when you fall out of alignment with your company values, you introduce confusion that actively erodes trust and inhibits collaboration by sending people into a self-protective posture.

Instead, to effectively lead by example, you must commit to your own personal development, expand your self-awareness around your triggers (and your more primitive responses to them), and learn to proactively manage those more challenging emotions and behaviors so you can correct your course before doing damage. All of this will necessitate strengthening your emotional intelligence and learning how to identify, own, and make amends for the missteps you take which harm others.

When you can consistently demonstrate alignment to your values—especially in challenging situations where you’ve personally been triggered—that is when you will have created a powerful foundation for trust that will inspire awe and catalyze collaboration throughout your organization. This modeling of alignment—and of pulling yourself back into alignment when you’ve fallen off course—encourages team members to course-correct themselves and one another, leading to a culture that earnestly seeks continuous improvement together.

Showing people what it looks like tolive your core values is an ongoing practice that requires substantial effort on your part, in addition to continuous self-reflection and a genuine desire to infuse positivity into your work environment. The good news is that the reward for your effort will exceed what you can imagine today.

Strategy 2

Crack the Code on Authentic, Effective Communication to Earn Trust at Work

Artificial harmony is a trust-killer. You’ll find it in the darker corners of those polite moments or silences when people avoid speaking their truth for fear of rocking the boat. They might be smiling, but they are metaphorically strapping on their armor and expending energy in gearing up for a battle they would prefer to avoid. But in so doing, their attention has been diverted from teamwork, creativity, and innovation in favor of self-protection. Not only do their results suffer, but so do their physical and mental states as their bodies are flushed with adrenaline and cortisol.

The antidote to artificial harmony is authentic, effective communication. This type of communication lies at the heart of a trusting culture, ecstatic to dive into the trenches together.

And while most leaders believe themselves to be communicating well, their employees express a differing opinion:

66 percent of leaders think they’re aligned with employees. Only 44 percent of employees agree.

77 percent of leaders think the communications they share include the context employees need to do their jobs well. Only 46 percent of employees agree.

67 percent of leaders say their audience has an easy way to share feedback on the essential communications they receive. Only 43 percent of employees agree.

—Axios HQ4

To create an environment where team members feel inspired to collaborate with one another, it is incumbent upon you, the leader, to actively model and encourage authentic, effective communication while also deepening employees’ senses of safety. This means being direct and holding people accountable (with kindness and grace!).

Authentic communication is not permission to use the phrase “I’m just going to be honest” as an excuse to be an uncaring jerk.

If you want your people to access more authenticity, you’re going to need to pave the way. This means learning how to support your people in communicating authentically by first supporting yourself. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if you think you already do this beautifully. So please do me a favor and reflect on these questions for a moment:

  • When you check out the story you’re telling yourself about someone else’s motivations (by asking them directly!), how often do you find you’ve missed the mark?

  • When a team member complains to you, how good are you at supporting them in feeling heard while also empowering them to solve their own problem (instead of solving it for them, or advising them on how to solve it)?

  • When you get seriously frustrated or angry at work, what is your process for de-escalating your fight-or-flight response so you don’t inadvertently cause undue suffering to others, to yourself, or to the organization?

  • When you hear others in the midst of conflict, what is your process for stepping in to offer support in a way that doesn’t disempower them?

If you want to create a more trusting culture, you will need to learn how to both trust and be trustworthy; how to help yourself feel psychologically safe and how to help others feel psychologically safe. Because at the end of the day, you, dear leader, set the depth of the trust pool. If you’re only willing to wade into the shallow end, you will not see others diving headfirst into the deep end.

“Nothing tells an employee that they matter like giving them your full attention. ”

Strategy 3

Inspire Trust in the Workplace by Giving Them Your Full Attention

Your undivided attention is one of the greatest gifts you can offer those around you. Your presence signals respect and care that others can feel deeply, and they will therefore lean into trusting you in return. Mastering presence is one key to feeling more deeply connected to those around you, while it will also improve your focus, help you regulate yourself emotionally, and reduce your stress.

Nothing tells an employee that they matter like giving them your full attention.

Presence is one of our tools to build trust in the workplace. When you give someone your full presence, repeatedly, you show them that not only do they matter but that they can trust you with something important to them; that you won’t let them down by giving into distraction, dismissing them, or downplaying what they might choose to share with you.

Here are some tips on how to evoke presence with your people:

  • Manage external distractions. Take proactive steps to minimize physical distractions, such as by silencing notifications and alerts from your phone, smartwatch, or laptop. Create a conducive working environment that limits interruptions from others including pets or coworkers. And recognize that attempting to multitask can significantly disrupt group dynamics (multitasking is a myth!).

  • Address internal distractions. Acknowledge and gently redirect your attention from internal distractions—such as wandering thoughts about daily concerns or upcoming tasks—back to the present moment and the human being(s) in front of you. This practice is akin to meditation, where the focus is on returning to the breath whenever the mind wanders.

  • Practice presence in communication. Cultivate presence in conversations by letting go of preconceived stories about past interactions or future outcomes and by letting go of your own agenda. If you are caught up in the need for a specific outcome you are already living in the future, which means you are not present. This approach allows for genuine and intentional engagement in the moment, fostering learning and deeper connection.

  • Set group agreements. In group settings, agree to limit technology use and communicate effectively to manage all the potential distractions that might get in the way of a highly productive experience.

Strategy 4

Promote Psychological Safety and Trust in Working Relationships by Demonstrating Respect

A Google study on team effectiveness revealed that psychological safety was the most critical factor in determining a team’s success5. You can’t trust one another if you can’t feel safe with one another.

So how do you help people to feel safe? You begin by ensuring they feel respected.

Championing respect in the workplace can significantly impact employee morale and overall company culture. Encouraging respect aligns with creating a culture where individuals feel valued and heard, which is essential for employee satisfaction and retention—and for fortifying that trust bridge your people cross daily.

The APA’s “2023 Work in American Survey” supports the importance of respect in the workplace by showing that 95 percent of employees find it very or somewhat important to feel respected at work6. This underscores the critical nature of respect in not only boosting morale but also in retaining talent and ensuring the success and happiness of the workforce.

Through working with countless CEOs and organizations in deepening psychological safety and connection, we at RTC have discovered that the value most critical to the impact on how employees see leaders is respect. Most organizations have a version of respect, integrity, regard, thoughtfulness, or another similar core value. When employees feel disrespected, it can negatively impact the company. In fact, of those surveyed by the APA, the 57 percent who felt disrespected ended up quitting their jobs.

However, when leaders consistently demonstrate respect in their interactions with team members, especially in challenging situations, they create a safe and trusting environment, positively impacting how employees view them and trust them.

Demonstrating respect means actively listening to team members, valuing diverse perspectives, and treating everyone with dignity and kindness, even in the face of disagreement or conflict. When leaders react to disrespect with disrespect, they undermine the very foundation of safety they seek to create, and actively cultivate a lack of trust in the relationship.

Leaders must be mindful of their own behaviors and take responsibility for their actions. If a leader does slip and behave disrespectfully, it’s crucial that they acknowledge their mistake, apologize sincerely, request a do-over to model better behavior, and then recommit to behaving respectfully. The impact of this vulnerability and accountability cannot be overstated and goes a long way to repairing trust and reinforcing the importance of a respectful workplace.

Strategy 5

Instill Trust at Work When You Normalize Failure around Living Your Values

Leaders can also foster safety by normalizing failure and framing it as an opportunity for learning and growth particularly as it relates to company culture, core values, and respect at work. We believe normalizing failure is one of the ways to increase trust in the workplace because when you can reframe failure as a normal outcome of taking appropriate risks—as opposed to a “mistake” that demands a consequence—that shift opens up the space for continual education.

Think about learning how to ride a bike as a kid (if you’ve done this!). The concept of falling off your bike has been so normalized by society that the fear likely didn’t hold you back from learning; plus, you had the support of a helmet and maybe a guardian or friend to keep you going. If you eventually learned to ride, that means you felt safe enough to keep trying. Over time, with practice, you learned to trust that you could ride your bike and not fall. When team members feel safe to take risks in living your core values, fail in some of their attempts, and learn from their mistakes, they are more likely to lean into trying again. Which turns into innovation, collaboration, and driving positive change.

Taking greater risks at work requires courage and vulnerability, as it involves stepping into potentially uncomfortable conversations to advocate for a respectful workplace culture. The encouragement to engage from a place of curiosity when offering or receiving feedback is a form of respectful risk-taking that acknowledges the complexity of human emotions and behaviors. It invites open, honest dialogue without casting blame, which is crucial for deepening trust, maintaining respect, and increasing understanding within the team.

When you take risks by kindly and generously speaking up—without judgment—upon noticing a misalignment with core values, you demonstrate respect for those values and for your team members while also modeling the ideal behavior you are requesting from others. This act of risk-taking encourages a culture of do-overs, where failure is expected as part of the learning process, where feedback is gracefully delivered and received, and where actions are realigned with core values. All of this deepens how your people can trust one another and rely on one another when challenges arise and mistakes are made. They learn, with practice, to trust that each team member can pedal hard and fast and extend a hand to help each other get back up easily when they fall.

Strategy 6

Invest in Team Development and Strategies to Build Trust in the Workplace

If you are looking for actions to build trust in the workplace and foster true collaboration, the biggest act we can suggest you take as a leader is your commitment to ongoing investment in team building and development that uplevels employees’ skills for deeper trust. Building trust in the workplace is hard—as is deepening collaboration—and you can’t really expect genuine change and authentic trust when your people aren’t exposed to the skills, knowledge, and continual learning and growth needed to do so.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand when it comes to choosing the right team-building activities and development is that this investment is not a one-time event or a single workshop but rather a lifestyle that requires ongoing thoughtfulness and the resolve to stick with it.

Too often, organizations approach team building and development as a box to be checked off. They host an annual retreat or bring in a guest speaker for an hour-long dialogue. While these events can be valuable, they are not sufficient on their own to create lasting change or to build deep bonds of trust and collaboration.

Instead, leaders must view team building and development as an ongoing process that is woven into the fabric of their organization’s culture. This means regularly creating opportunities for team members to connect, learn, and grow together.

This can involve implementing regular performance reviews, providing coaching and mentorship opportunities, enrolling employees in various online courses to uplevel their skills, commiting to weekly or monthly team bonding activities, and recognizing and rewarding team members who actively seek out opportunities to learn and grow.

By approaching team building and development as a lifestyle rather than a one-time event, leaders create a culture where trust and collaboration can thrive. Team members feel valued and supported in their ongoing growth and development, and they are more likely to form deep bonds of trust and respect with their colleagues that lend to more innovative collaboration and creative results.

While creating this culture of ongoing development requires a significant investment of time, energy, and resources from leaders—and often asks the leader to choose this type of culture in the face of competing priorities—the investment in ongoing team building and development is well worth the expected gains in employee engagement and satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty. By creating a culture where trust, collaboration, and ongoing growth are valued and prioritized, leaders can unlock the full potential of their teams and drive long-term success for their organizations.

Trust - Team Success Trophy Hands Adobe Stock 289775507 1200w


Building trust at work is a multifaceted endeavor that requires intentional effort, authentic leadership, and an unwavering commitment to creating a culture where every individual feels valued and empowered.

To summarize, the best way to gain deeper trust and collaboration in the workplace is by implementing these top six strategies:

  1. Show your people what your core values look like in action

  2. Crack the code on authentic, effective communication

  3. Give them your full attention

  4. Promote psychological safety by demonstrating respect

  5. Normalize failure around living your values

  6. Invest in team building and development

By implementing the strategies we’ve outlined, you’ll unlock the full potential of your workforce and create a ripple effect of positivity that extends far beyond your organization’s walls.

At RTC, we’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of trust and collaboration. We’ve witnessed teams that were once siloed and disconnected come together to achieve what had been seen as a pipe dream. We’ve watched as individuals who were once afraid to speak up found their voices and became catalysts for change. And we’ve celebrated alongside organizations as they reached new heights of success, all because they prioritized the human element of their business.

So, as you embark on your own journey to build trust and collaboration in your workplace, remember that every step you take, no matter how small, has the power to create magic. Every interaction, every conversation, every moment of vulnerability and authenticity—these are the building blocks of a culture that will not only survive but thrive in the face of any challenge.

The future of your organization is in your hands. By prioritizing trust and collaboration, you’re not just investing in your team—you’re investing in the very foundation of your success. So let’s get started, together, and watch as the impossible becomes possible, one trust-building step at a time.

1. Paul J. Zak, “The Neuroscience of Trust,” Harvard Business Review, January–February, 2017,

2. Richard Metcalfe, “How Engaged Employees Are the Path to Success,” August 21, 2019, Salesforce,

3. Erik Samdahl, “Top Employers are 5.5x More Likely to Reward Collaboration,” Institute for Corporate Productivity (I4cp), June 22, 2017,

4. “The 2023 State of Essential Workplace Communications,” Axios HQ, 2023,

5. Charles Duhigg, “What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team,” New York Times, February 25, 2016,

6. “2023 Work in America Survey,” American Psychological Association,