4 mins

Earning your team’s trust can take time, but the benefits are worth the effort.

When transitioning from an individual contributor to an engineering manager, you expect to learn new things within your first 90 days, such as how to have 1:1sdelegating, and providing feedback. At the foundation of all of these tasks is the goal of building trust. If your reports believe you care for them, they will be more open to your feedback and likely to support your vision.

I experienced the opposite end of this when I worked in sales. After I followed directions from my manager, the project became a disaster. The customer complained about the proposal. Instead of providing guidance, my manager walked away from the situation. I lost trust in them, and my confidence and performance dropped.

With this in mind, when I started managing a team, I looked up frameworks for building trust. One of the most impactful articles I read was Frei and Morriss’s Trust Triangle.

The trust triangle has three points: authenticity, empathy, and logic. By incorporating these into your leadership style, you can establish a culture of trust and psychological safety. Let’s dig into each one.


Upon joining a team as the new manager, you may feel pressure to make a good first impression. After all, they say you never get a second chance to make one. 

Walking in and pretending to have all the answers is tempting. If you do, great. But most new managers need to learn about their team members, processes, and new skills first. 

Instead of pretending to have it all figured out, be authentic and humble in your interactions with your team.

You can be authentic with your team by: 

  • Sharing your journey: Let your team know you are navigating new territory as a manager and are committed to evolving alongside them.
  • Admitting when you don’t know something: This openness encourages your team to share their challenges and uncertainties.
  • Being as transparent as possible: Maintain consistent communication about your values, goals, and expectations. Transparency builds trust, and your team will appreciate knowing what to expect from you and what you expect from them.


For new managers, the journey begins with getting to know your team members. Regular 1:1s will offer a window into the personal experiences that shape each team member.

However, it’s not just about knowing, it’s about acting on that knowledge. For instance, my team expressed concern about an impending corporate restructuring. Since I understood their frustrations, I scheduled a team meeting and carved out time for a Q&A. While I couldn’t halt the change, I could reassure and inspire my team, earning their trust.

Empathy also plays a crucial role in delivering feedback or, at times, disappointing news. Consider it an extension of understanding, or the ability to put yourself in their shoes. Whether it’s a missed promotion, or a task that didn’t quite hit the mark, the empathetic approach involves circling back to your observations and seeking their perspective.


Being logical doesn’t mean being unemotional. It’s about being stewards of progress and clarity in our organizations and aligning our team around why a decision has been made.

Logic also translates into acting swiftly when someone on the team needs support. As a new manager, there might be a temptation to wait out an employee’s issue. However, I’ve learned that delay can’t be an option. A small struggle can escalate into a significant disruption quickly. Failing to step in when needed not only jeopardizes your credibility, but also the foundation of mutual trust.

Here are three proactive steps to earn credibility:

  • Secure early wins: Add value to their lives by resolving immediate issues the team faces to showcase your commitment and ability to address challenges head-on.
  • Create accountability: Start holding your reports accountable to reasonable deadlines. This fosters a culture of responsibility and ensures everyone is on the same page regarding expectations.
  • Schedule regular 1:1s: This provides a dedicated space for open communication, understanding individual needs, and building stronger connections.

Final thoughts

Trust isn’t just a checkbox to mark off in your first 90 days, it’s the glue that holds a high-performing team together. As you navigate the challenges and triumphs of leadership, remember that authenticity, empathy, and logic form the foundation of trust.

By being authentic, you create a space for growth and collaboration. Empathy fosters a team that feels heard, understood, and valued. And logic ensures that decisions are communicated clearly, and your team feels supported. As you embark on this journey, remember the Trust Triangle. The trust you build today will be the driving force behind your team’s success tomorrow.