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Three Words That Build Trust Instantly

3 words to build trust

Do you know how to build trust? This is a critical leadership and management skill.

Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you.

—Eckhart Tolle

My MGR360 cofounder, Joel, said something in a recent training session that struck me as critical for every manager to know.

“There are three words that build trust immediately,” said Joel.

I don’t know.”

Leaders and managers often avoid admitting they don’t have all the information or answers. They worry it will make them look weak or incompetent.

But your employees can tell when you’re papering over a knowledge gap. Admitting that you don’t know something shows honesty, humility, and a willingness to be vulnerable—rather than blustering through and acting like a know-it-all. That builds a ton of trust.

The benefits of showing intellectual humility go even further. By admitting you don’t know, you open up a space to learn. What expert people or sources can you consult?

You may be the boss, but that doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers. Admit when you don’t, and then enlist your team in the learning process.

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Picture of Alicia Thrasher

Alicia Thrasher

Alicia is cofounder and CEO of Manager360. Previously, she brought her leadership, vision, and strategic oversight to many executive positions, including leading programs for eBay/PayPal, Google, and Anheuser-Busch. She is the coauthor, with Joel Trammell, of The Manager's Playbook: Make Exceptional People Management Your Competitive Advantage.

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