How Fearless Leaders trust.


How do you build and maintain trust with your clients?

“Trust is a choice.”
— AMY DICKINSON, advice columnist


I attended a gathering of mediators last month to enjoy a purposeful social hour. The topic up for discussion was Trust. To me, the conversation raised points that apply directly to how Fearless Leaders (that’s you!) create trust with your clients. Read on, and see if you agree.


Gaining Clients’ Trust

At first, the topic centered on how to gain the trust of all the parties in mediation so that clients feel they’re in good, capable hands. The host shared a surprising study by Dr. Jean Poitras, professor of conflict management and negotiation at HEC Montréal that reveals the top five things that made clients feel satisfied with the service they received—get this—even when the outcome was less than they wanted. 

Clients trusted the process and felt satisfied when the mediator (substitute your role here) showed:

1. Mastery of the process
2. Ability to explain the process
3. Warmth and consideration
4. Chemistry with the clients
5. Lack of bias — which I’ll define as fairness, openness, mutuality, and respect.

Rebuilding Trust

Then someone said, “We’ve been talking about how we gain our clients’ trust, but what about when things have gone terribly wrong and people are in conflict? How to help colleagues and teams rebuild trust, so they can once again work well together?”

Maybe you’ve heard this saying: “Trust is hard to build, easily broken, and slow to repair.”

Rebuilding trust is a slow, deliberate process requiring actions and consistency, more so than words and promises. When people (or teams) have lost trust in each other and are upset and defensive, I start by asking what trust means to each of them, how damaged that trust is, and what it will take to begin to repair. In other words, I support them in self-determining what will work best.




“When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.”

— PATANJALI, Hindu philosopher




Back to that convo: Then another mediator brought up a fascinating twist: “There’s a third version of trust in these relationships, and that is:

“Do we trust our clients?”

What a great question! Have you ever asked yourself (especially in the middle of a really difficult project) do we really trust our client to work in good faith and to make decisions that serve their interests while valuing the team? Do we trust that they have it in them to be fair, courageous, wise, and committed? Or do we doubt them, question their motives, and assert that we know best how to achieve their goals?

These are thought-provoking questions for you to ponder about  your own process of building, maintaining, and sometimes repairing trust with your clients.




“Because you believed I was capable of behaving decently, I did.”






As you know, I love hearing back from you. So… Take my Fearless Leader Trust Poll! (Strictly anonymous)

Q: As a leader, which kind of trust is hardest for you in the context of your professional practice?

  • Gaining clients’ trust in the beginning
  • Maintaining trust between clients and the team
  • Rebuilding trust when it’s been broken
  • Trusting clients to make good decisions

Don’t want to click on another link? I get it. Just email me back with your reply.
I want to hear from you!


Images: Arsenal Vienna; steel structure in Amsterdam Noord; Künstlerverein Malkasten in Dusseldorf
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