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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Honestly, I wish I learned this sooner. Having a tight network of trusted peers is as vital (and often trumps) your relationship with your boss and your direct reports. Trust matters even more with your peers because it’s TECHNICALLY optional and therefore more meaningful and sticky. There are no “official” accountability levers. It’s easy to put them last on your trust-building priority list.

Your peers aren’t evaluating you on an employee engagement survey or writing your performance appraisal. Often they have competing agendas, and of course, you know it’s you against them in the stack rank.

So many of us buckle down, approach our peers with cautious pleasantries, and watch our backs.

Real trust develops when no one is watching…when you’ve got something to lose, and choose to be vulnerable anyway.

5 Ways to Get Your Peers to Trust You

Building trusting peer relationships starts with you. Here’s how.

1. Get Naked

Well not all the way, but at least take off your parka and mittens. Let them know what scares you. People trust those they can see. Share a vulnerability or two, and then wait for it. It might not happen right away, but stay open and investing as trust grows.

2. Give More Than You Receive

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a company and seen two teams with the same objectives, doing the same work, both with best practices that they’re completely keeping to themselves. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” is old school. Show your great idea first without worrying about what comes next.

3. Take a Field Trip

I learned this from one of my direct reports in my sales exec role. His peers in the finance department were not approving contracts for a subset of our customers. My deeply southern district manager got in the car and drove three hours for an old-fashioned visit. They had some sweet tea, cleared up misconceptions, developed a streamlined communication protocol, and our acceptance rate for that market skyrocketed. These were qualified customers that “didn’t look good on paper.” But the paper didn’t do them justice.

4. Lose a Battle

You don’t care equally about every issue. Know what’s worth going to the mat for, and what isn’t. A few concessions can gain you the reputation of being “easy to work with.” When you really need something, they’ll be more likely to trust your motives.

5. Lift Them Up

As a customer service director, my friend Dan and I stumbled on this one by accident. We were peers (who were always stack ranked against one another), but we also realized we had different gifts. I’m embarrassed to admit, he went first. He rolled up his sleeves and helped me tremendously on the operations side. He even silently sat in on a few tough customer calls and privately messaged me with what to do while I was getting my sea legs.

I then came to his region and helped him attack his employee engagement issues.

In every operations review, we genuinely credited one another with our success. A high-tide rises all boats.

Don’t overlook the importance of trust amongst peers. It’s harder, it makes a difference, the big guys notice, and the relationships last a lifetime.

Are you looking to take your team to the next level? Please give me a call at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

Other Posts that Might Help

Why Your Peers Are Getting Snarky

How Do I Stay Motivated When My Peers Are Lazy

4 Powerful Ways to Get Feedback From Your Peers

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Bill Benoist

    Hi Karin,

    Getting to know each other on a personal level outside of the office can help build the trust inside the office. Some of my fondest memories of my peers are from activities and get togethers after work that came about when our respective manager had us all hop a jet to a centralized city for in person meetings during the day, and some playful times in the evening.

    • Karin Hurt

      Bill, Thanks so much for adding that. Me too. My favorite was a scavenger hunt we did all over NYC.

  2. Terri Klass

    Sharing the hard work and contributions of a teammate can really help develop trust. When I work with this one organization, I try to tell others about their strengths and strong collaboration skills. They in turn feel that I have their backs and would support their decisions.

    Thanks Karin for an excellent post and topic!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Excellent. So agree. Everyone wants to know that their hard work is noticed and to have good chatter about them.

  3. Paula Kiger

    I love this Karin!! At my former employer, we had a “walking” program on 15 minute breaks. It was kind of short lived (sadly) but it was one of the better times for me connecting with my Executive Director, who I had difficulty with otherwise. I think it was sharing a different environment (and moving … and not sitting across a desk from one another).

    • Karin Hurt

      Paula, Wow! I love that idea.

  4. Alli Polin

    I’ve had peers who had my back and I had theirs. It’s more than having a good friend at the office – you’re there to help each other rise to the best you can be. I think you hit it here – it takes trust that when push comes to shove, they’re not going to sell you out but promote the you know what out of you. The best way to develop any relationship is to show up as the real you.

    Appreciate that I now have a smile on my face thinking about some of those old colleagues who helped me to fly.

    Definitely one to share!

    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, Thanks so much. I always love when you share your stories. P.S. Our Parent’s Guide to Leadership continues to get downloads every day.

  5. LaRae Quy

    My favorite is “Take a field trip.”

    Once you break bread and get to know a person, much more becomes apparent. For good and bad. Often, many people I thought were awesome and I held in high regard turned out to be empty suits, while other times I was pleasantly surprised by a humble and respectful spirit.

    As you say, bottom line is becoming vulnerable enough that others can make the same assessments about you….

  6. Lisa Hamaker

    Related to 4. Lose a Battle is take the blame. When working in an organization that was pretty political I took the blame fully for something that went array due to a miscommunication with a fellow manager. We were both at fault, but his situation was more competitive so my taking the blame was easier on my career. I did not even think about the give and take, just felt like the right thing to to because he is such a good guy. It really enhanced our relationship.
    Thanks Karin!


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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