Building Trust as a New Supervisor

In supervision or leadership, trust is one of the most important things that you will need to develop, but it will take time.

Trust encompasses a whole range of things and it takes time to build yet can be unraveled very quickly.

Here are a few ideas of things that you can do to maintain trust, to build trust and to look out for.

One of the things that’s important for trust to exist in the team is a space to be able to speak freely, to speak safely, to be able to speak up about things at work.

Psychological Safety

A common term around this is psychological safety. People need to be able to feel safe emotionally, mentally and spiritually, to speak up about things that are happening in the workplace.

A space to create healthy, safe, tension or conflict in the workplace, should be available for everyone. So if people feel uncomfortable, object to the way things are being done or feel that things are misaligned, they have safe space to bring these issues to the team. Additionally, psychological safety is also about feeling safe to be able to put your hand up and say,

“I’m not doing well.

“I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

“I’m not sure how to do this.”

“I’m at capacity”

“I just don’t have the skills to be able to do this work.”

This means a team member feels safe to not be criticized, punished, or reprimanded for speaking up. If there is a culture where people feel safe to speak up, it also means as a leader, you can trust your team.

If the work is beyond their capacity, they don’t have time or if they don’t have the skills, you want to trust your team to speak up. You want to know that you can trust them to work autonomously, knowing that things will be done to a standard or time frame that works for you as the leader.

This is important so that you don’t micromanage your team.

Nothing will erode trust more than micromanagement.

If you can find ways to delegate to your team, have information and feedback comeback in a way that works for you, then this is going to build a really strong trust and rapport between you and your team.

To Build Trust with Your Team, Be Consistent

One of the things that you and your team need to do to build trust is follow through on your word. If you say you are going to do something, then you must do it. You must follow through on that.

Building Trust as a New Supervisor

I heard a great saying that’s popular in the US, which is to show the receipts. That means if I’m going to go out and purchase something, I’ve got to prove that I’ve purchased it by showing the receipts. It’s a term that they use to be able to say when you’re going to do something, show that you’ve done it, show that you’ve followed through on your word and committed. As a leader, it is fundamental that you are clear on the vision and the direction. If you’re aware of that, if you go off track or off course, it’s hard for people to stay motivated and inspired to take action. “It’s harder to follow somebody if they don’t know which direction they’re going.”

As a leader, it’s essential that you are clear on the vision of the organization, of the project, that you are strategic and that there are clear milestones and stops along the way that you are all working towards common goals.

Any leader needs to be consistent. Now, if you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. I remember when raising my children and reading all the books about parenting, the common lesson for parents was to be consistent. It’s when you are inconsistent that it creates disruption and challenging behavior with your children. So, it’s not dissimilar in the workplace. If you want things to work out, then it’s important that there is consistency in the way that you work, the way that you show up and the way that you advise people. Otherwise, you’re not ‘walking the talk’; you are not leading by example, you’re being inconsistent in the way you communicate and the way you direct.

I can remember having a manager I worked with, all of us in the team would be walking around on eggshells because sometimes the manager would be really friendly. Other times, they’d just fly off the handle and you could never trust to be emotionally safe with that person in the workplace.

Create Space for Safe Conflict

The other thing that’s important to building trust is creating space for safe conflict. As I mentioned before, a space where people are safe to raise objections or challenge things, you want to create this kind of place for a healthy debate. Though that can be easier said than done sometimes.

Think about what mechanisms you have in place for people to be able to approach difficult topics, communicate, collaborate and come to a decision, essentially creating space for negotiation.

It’s not always going to be a win-win situation, but if people are competing for resources like time, equipment or space, then you need to have open communication, safe conflict and safe tensions that can ultimately come to a resolution.

Having healthy conflict requires a resolution, acknowledging a disagreement and having an open discussion.

You need a process to create healthy conflict. You mustn’t allow behaviors to gradually slip and evolve, otherwise, you end up with cliques, posses, gangs or little clusters that form within your team.

It’s best that there’s an ebb & flow of relationships and people can shift and move around within those relationships. As soon as there becomes a tribal hierarchy, then we start to get into dangerous territory. This is where you can find that gossiping or or intentional exclusion can occur. This is risky behaviour as it is likely to indicate bullying or harassment.

Trust in your People, Trust Their Skills

When you have solid trust within your team, you can trust someone’s skills. You can trust that they can do the job, in turn, they can trust they will be safe with you as the leader. They want to be able to speak up when they’re ill-equipped to perform, whether it’s skills, time or confidence.

This also applies to you as a leader; to be able to openly and honestly communicate when you don’t have the skills, the answers, you’re not performing at your best, or you’ve let someone down. It shows honesty and vulnerability however it’s also important to demonstrate a positive attitude by also working towards a solution to rectify it. Perhaps you can seek advice from a team member that has expertise in something that you’re having challenges with.

Take a moment to consider the following:

When has your trust been betrayed within the workplace?

When do you feel like your trust was lost?

When do you feel like trust hasn’t worked for you within the workplace, or when have you felt that you were really entrusted and valued within the workplace?

And when did you trust the person that was leading you?

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About the Author

Barbara Clifford - The Time Tamer
Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a co-founder of The Hinwood Institute. She is the lead trainer and coach in Time Management. She is a recognized leader in Stress Management. An experienced coach, speaker, columnist and facilitator, Barbara’s work with The Hinwood Institute assists people to unclutter mess, make order from chaos, and swap the shackles of overwhelming for freedom. Barbara’s clients move from the relentless hamster wheel to waking inspired, motivated, making decisions with purpose and achieving peak performance. She lives in the desert of Alice Springs, Australia working with people around the country.

Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships


  • Have consistency in the way you communicate.
  • Trust the person or the team you work with.
  • Create a healthy space or environment for conflicts.


  • Fall into that trap where bullying and harassment are tolerated.
  • Expect a win-win situation all the time.
  • Do the opposite of what you’ve communicated at work.

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