ATD Links Archive
Issue Map
ATD Links Archive
ATD Links

Four Ways To Build Trust

As a mentoring administrator or champion, you can help trust flourish by encouraging people to follow a few guidelines that will build camaraderie and underscore participants’ commitment to their mentoring network. All of this lends to building trust and positively affecting engagement in mentoring networks. 

Be generous 

Openly and generously sharing insights and understandings can help establish trust among colleagues and create a more connected and responsive organization. Motivated by the betterment of others within their modern mentoring communities, generous participants tend to operate out of a deep desire to serve others. They build trust among the group by being highly collaborative, by willingly sharing their know-how, by giving their time and energy, and by referencing the contributions of those they consulted. In order for mentoring communities like this to work, reciprocity must be in place, where people give and take, creating a fluid and graceful dance of sorts with knowledge, insights, and understandings constantly flowing among the group. When one person has a need, others move to fill the gap; when that person has the ability to help someone else in need, they do so eagerly and enthusiastically. A great example of this is when people are onboarded through modern mentoring programs. Employees who have recently completed an onboarding program make great advisors for new hires who are beginning the process because the program is still fresh in their minds. Recently hired employees who have finished onboarding can anticipate the needs of the newest employees, helping them acclimate to the organization’s culture. People who exhibit generosity with their knowledge and time are often seen as approachable, engaging, and thoughtful. They take a personal interest in envisioning and encouraging others to become their best selves, and they seek out opportunities to highlight the positive attributes and unique contributions of people within the context of mentoring. They are genuine, caring members of the modern mentoring community who strive to give back to others around them. 

Be empathetic 

Empathy plays a critical role in establishing trust because commitment to one another within the group grows when people consider the perspectives and concerns of those around them. When people show empathy, they project a caring attitude and look at the whole picture to understand how others will be affected. This is important within mentoring networks today because when collaborators can easily empathize with others, it paves the way for open and honest communication—making participants in mentoring programs feel safe when revealing personal information, voicing complaints, or sharing untested ideas. This can help set the tone and work style within a modern mentoring network, providing a positive foundation upon which to grow. If I had been more self-aware as a young petty officer, I would have realized that my actions were not being seen as empathetic. My team didn’t think I had their best interests at heart. To show my empathetic side, I needed to improve my active listening skills and learn how to ask meaningful questions. By engaging them in conversation, I was able to gain a better understanding of the issue at hand, take corrective action, and show my team that I was acting with them in mind. 

Be authentic 


People who dare to be authentic in their mentoring interactions take risks, step out of their comfort zone, eliminate excuses, and engage in courageous conversations. These people share successes and failures, and engage in knowledge sharing with a high level of transparency. People need to share what went right and what went wrong so that mistakes are not repeated. It’s not easy telling people about my epic fail as a young leader, but I do so with the hope that people can learn from my mistakes. 

Authentic collaborators solicit feedback, question their own beliefs based on new information presented to them, and face their failures as learning opportunities. They admit when they don’t know something, they ask for assistance, they listen to others in the group, and they show genuine gratitude for the insights they gain from their mentoring cohorts. This helps build a culture in which people willingly share relevant, emerging information that can be applied to real job demands. A large part of modern mentoring involves revealing personal understandings about what may have gone wrong in the past or what lessons have been learned through previous experiences. Not everyone is willing to communicate these types of insights for fear of being seen as incompetent, unknowledgeable, or foolish. However, when people are courageous enough to let down their guard and expose their vulnerabilities to others, deep and profound learning can occur. As a result, trust is built among participants and commitment grows throughout the group—even if the group is a virtual one. 

Be accountable 

To help people feel comfortable enough with their mentoring networks to engage in these types of behaviors, everyone must act with integrity and hold one another accountable. As a mentoring administrator, you need to establish and promote proper standards for these traits so that people know how to act with integrity and accountability when using modern mentoring technology to share knowledge.  

Note: This article is excerpted from Modern Mentoring by Randy Emelo. 


© 2015 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Randy Emelo is the founder and chief strategist at River, a Denver-based company that builds mentoring and social learning software. He has more than 25 years of experience in management, training, and leadership development, and is a prolific author, speaker, and thought leader on topics related to collaboration, mentoring, social learning, and talent development.

Throughout the years, Randy has embarked on a military career with the U.S. Navy, led leadership development work with nonprofits in the Americas, and helped Fortune 500 companies build mentoring and learning cultures in their organizations.

Randy holds a master’s degree in organizational design and effectiveness from Fielding Graduate University (formerly The Fielding Institute) in Santa Barbara, CA. Randy’s book, Modern Mentoring, is available now from ATD Press. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter @remelo.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.