Leadership 301: Nine Strategies to Earn the Trust of Your Peers

dominosIs your opinion respected among your peers? Do they come to you for advice or constantly argue against your ideas? Do they want to be around you or do they avoid eye contact in the hallways?

Influence among peers is perhaps the purest measurement of one’s leadership abilities. By definition, titles cannot be leaned upon to mask weaknesses in leadership ability. Each peer is completely dependent upon the trust they have been able to build with the others.

Below are 9 strategies to earn the trust of your peers:

  1. Cultivate Relationships – Relationships are the foundation of trust. Take the time to invest in your peer-to-peer relationships early and often. Share a meal. Learn and remember their children’s names. Connect outside the office. Find out what is important to them and show a genuine interest by asking questions. Trust is like a bank account – you must make deposits before you can make withdrawals.

  2. Pick your battles – As my pastor used to say, “Major on the majors and minor on the minors.” Resist the temptation to be the grammar police on internal e-mails. Don’t be the first to express your opinion on every matter in every meeting. Remember, relationships are based on trust. You have to make more deposits than withdrawals–in both size and quantity. Withdraw wisely!

  3. Ask their opinion – By inviting a peer to share their opinion on one of your projects, you are demonstrating a level of trust and vulnerability – in that you are opening yourself up to potential criticism; and you are placing value on the other person – otherwise their opinion would not matter. When a peer offers an opinion, demonstrate openness to suggestions by asking clarifying questions rather than immediately defending your turf.

  4. Check Your Motive – So many times, it is not the words that are used but the attitude sensed that breaks trust. If you’re going to tackle a tough issue, your peers must sense that your motive is to help the situation, not place blame or even simply point out a wrong. Your motive and attitude provide a filter through which your statements and questions are interpreted. “Jay, why was that decision made?” can be interpreted several ways including, “I bet Jay has information I don’t currently have that informed his decision” or “Jay, you’re an idiot.” Your attitude and motive will make all the difference.

  5. Never attack publicly – “Wow, that was pretty stupid, don’t you think?” “Why in the world did you do that?” When you’re frustrated, resist the temptation to publicly submit your peer to a string of snorty, rhetorical questions. Stripping someone of their dignity publicly is the fastest way to break trust, even if what you’re saying is right – and oh by the way, what goes around, comes around! Get behind closed doors and address your peer one-on-one. If that doesn’t work, then bring others into the conversation who can influence the situation.

  6. Be a team player – Take advantage of opportunities to help for a few minutes with a project or menial task. Be sensitive to notice when they’re having a bad day and offer a listening ear. Share ideas that make their job easier while being easy to do business with. Follow through on your promises. Approach your peers with a desire to make them successful, whatever that looks like on a particular day.

  7. Compliment good work – Look for ways to publicly compliment your peer or their team. To qualify, your praise must be sincere, specific, and timely – not overdone, general, or manipulative. Beware: insincere praise works similarly to biting criticism, eventually people quit listening and it serves as a trust withdrawal rather than a deposit.

  8. Be excellent – even if you are still working to polish your people skills, doing your job well is an excellent trust builder. Ultimately, if your peers know that your work backs up your talk and they can depend on you to stand and deliver on schedule and on budget, your influence will expand. In contrast, you can be the nicest, most personable individual in the building but if you are not good at what you do you will not have the respect of your peers.

  9. Deflect Credit – Don’t ever accept credit for work done by or with others. Always give credit where credit is due. There is definitely an art to deflecting credit. Done wrong, it can sound like a shallow false humility, but done right it not only allows you to be a part of making your peers look better, but also builds trust as they begin to see that your motive is not simply personal accolades but also to make them look good – and who doesn’t like that?

This concludes our three part Leadership Series where we’ve discussed influencing your boss, your subordinates, and your peers. What topics – leadership or otherwise – would you recommend next? Please leave your ideas below.




Photo credit: rosswebsdale / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA


4 thoughts on “Leadership 301: Nine Strategies to Earn the Trust of Your Peers

  1. Unfortunately, my peers don’t look me eye-to-eye, unless we are on Skype. :-) (Hope to get down to the office in the future to visit one day though!)

    I think my biggest challenge is to make sure to over-communicate my motives. Since I do most of my work remotely, an email, text or even call can be misunderstood.

    On that note, I had two ideas: Communicating Clarity or Business Systems.

  2. This is some great information Ryan! I especially like your thoughts on point 7 and 9. I can’t remember where I read it, but somewhere in one of these books on the shelf there’s a line that says something like, “leaders take all the blame and give others all the credit.”

    • Yeah, I think that is a good principle to follow. It creates tons of loyalty in the team and makes major deposits into the relationship/trust account.

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