How to Drive Trust, Accountability and Candor

There are certain behaviors that are indicative of well-run organizations and teams. Some of these core behaviors—trust, candor, accountability and teamwork—are fundamental to success, especially in the dynamic environment of an entrepreneurial venture. Companies talk about instilling these behaviors but don't know how. In this lesson, we provide some techniques to make these behaviors part of your daily operating structure.

Create Clarity and Fairness First

It's very hard to address the key behaviors of trust, candor, accountability and teamwork if everyone doesn't know what they are doing and what they are responsible for. This comes to light in the form of:

  • Unclear hierarchies and fuzzy reporting structures
  • Lack of performance reviews and feedback
  • Employees with inflated titles, salaries, stock options, or other perks

To solve this, make sure you put in place the basic people tools that create the clarity and fairness that forms the foundation for a team:

  • Job descriptions
  • Clear roles and responsibilities
  • Reporting structure
  • Performance reviews and feedback

Try these techniques to get these core behaviors in place and get management rowing in the same direction.


Trust does not develop overnight. Try these techniques to build some:

  • Make a Sacrifice. Make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of the company or a fellow employee. When you are willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others or the company, you demonstrate to others that putting others interests ahead of your own is worthy of their trust.
  • Be Honest and Share Information Completely. Be straightforward and honest with everyone, and expect the same in return. When you are open and honest on a consistent basis, especially when it does not paint you in the most favorable light, you build connections with others on your team.
  • Be Open to Others. Don’t dismiss an idea simply because it doesn’t align with what you had in mind. Take everyone’s feedback into consideration before making a final decision and let others be heard. Sharing ideas is one factor that sets wildly successful businesses apart from those that struggle to grow. Idea sharing allows the best ideas to come to light and creates a mutual respect that starts to build trust.
  • Stand Up for What You Believe In. If you feel strongly about an issue, make sure you voice your opinion, but be prepared to share evidence to support your view. Those that are principled in their approach to issues are viewed to be trustworthy.
  • Follow Through on the Commitments You Make. The easiest way to lose someone’s trust and confidence is to let them down. Make sure you meet your commitments and don’t set deadlines you can’t meet.
  • Learn From Your Mistakes. Mistakes will happen and when they do, own up to them. Taking responsibility and developing a process to ensure the same mistake isn’t repeated is a great way to build trust. This doesn’t have to be a big, soul crushing experience. If we aren’t making mistakes, we aren’t taking any chances. When a mistake occurs, take responsibility. Then, discuss how the same situation won’t have the same result next time. Finally, discuss what you and your team learned from the situation.
  • Encourage Colleagues to be Candid with Others. When a colleague comes to you to complain about someone else, challenge them to go to the person directly. Make them know that you are never going to be a source of gossip behind the scenes because you believe trust is important.
  • Allow Failure. People need to trust that they can act, take chances and fail without liability. Praise those that are willing to take a risk—even if results in a failure.


We all wish people would hold themselves accountable. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. So how do you drive accountability without babysitting (which you don't have the time to do)? Here are a few ideas:

  • Group Process. Individuals that may lack accountability in a one on one setting (i.e., "I didn't have time to do it") are far less likely to exhibit the same behavior if that lack of accountability is visible to a larger group. To drive accountability, have the reporting of an activity occur in front of a group as opposed to just one on one with you.
  • Regular Process. Make the reporting of objectives and activities a regular process. If the sales team member knows that he or she is to report results every Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the sales meeting, they are much more likely to be accountable.
  • Have The Leader Show He or She is Accountable. Make a point of showing the organization how the leader is holding him or herself accountable. When the leader holds themselves accountable, this sends a message that accountability is something that is standard operating procedure.
  • Have a Person Report Results to a Third Party. Having an employee report results to a third party—such as an advisor or a board member—can make them accountable in a hurry.


People are far less candid than they say they are. Try these techniques to change that:

  • Talk about The Obligation to Others. If you really are a team, you owe each other the respect to be candid with each other. Stress the obligation to each other, to employees and to investors. Our job as leaders is to fix the issues of the business and being candid is a necessary part of that.
  • Leader First. The leader sets the tone for this one by asking in front of a group of people for people to be candid with him and her. Make sure to thank them when they do.
  • Call Out Colleagues. Saying, "Come on Joe, you are not really being candid" in a meeting of peers sends a message. Don't be rude or disrespectful, but call others out and ask them to do the same with you.


What does it mean to be a team? It means that you:

  • understand that you collectively have a greater obligation to employees, customers and investors.
  • are willing to be candid with each other.
  • are willing to hold each other accountable.
  • are willing to jump in and help a teammate.
  • are willing to challenge each other without liability.
  • care about each other and the success of the company.
  • take the time to know each other personally and care about their family and personal goals.

Teamwork requires a level of maturity in individual team members to put their egos and insecurities aside for the greater good. Challenge each other. Push each other. Help each other. Care about each other. Remember, teamwork does not develop overnight, but thinking about these things as you build your company can plant the seeds for developing a great team.