Machiavelli asked whether it was more desirable for a leader to be loved or feared. However, it may actually be more important to know how much you’re trusted.
According to research published by Harvard Business Review, trust has a major impact on employees and employers. They reported that employees at high-trust companies said they had 74% less stress, 106% more energy, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more life satisfaction, and 40% less burnout.
While the research is clear that trust is essential in the workplace, it can be hard to earn.
Trust is the foundation of any leader-follower relationship. Without trust, followers will not be willing to take risks, try new things or fully commit to their leader’s vision.
If you want to know how to build trust quickly, here are the keys to achieving it:
Connect With Your Team
It's hard to trust someone you don't know, so one of the best things you can do as a leader is to build an environment that intentionally builds relationships. As the leader, you are the architect of your team's culture. You have the power to set the tone and shape the interactions.
Make it a priority to get to know your team members and cultivate an environment where everyone feels comfortable interacting with each other. When people feel like they can trust and rely on the people around them, it will be much easier for them to trust you as their leader.
Here are 9 ways to accelerate the relationship-building process:
1. One-on-One Meetings
In order to get to know your team members on a deeper level, make time for regular one-on-one meetings. This is an opportunity for you to check in with them about how they're doing both professionally and personally.
2. Be Transparent
Leaders who are open and honest with their team members earn their trust. Make it a habit to share relevant information about the company's direction, goals, and challenges. This will help your team feel like they are part of the decision-making process and that you consider their input to be valuable.
3. Provide Feedback
Employees are more engaged when they receive ongoing guidance rather than waiting for annual performance reviews. Let them know how well they’re doing and where they need to grow. Make your feedback timely and specific.
4. Listen Attentively
Give employees plenty of opportunities for your employees to express their views too. Stay visible and keep your (virtual) door open as much as possible. Listen with an open mind and act on useful suggestions. Also, be sure to highlight the suggestions you put into action to show that you’re paying attention.
5. Be Inclusive
Celebrate diversity and respect individual differences. Build a culture where each team member feels like they belong. Examine your company’s policies and practices, as well as your own personal bias. It also goes a long way to ensure you are modeling inclusion in your talk and walk about other departments, functions, regions and leaders.
6. Resolve Conflicts
Disagreements are natural when you spend 40 or more hours a week together. When you handle them constructively, they may even strengthen your relationships. Empower employees to seek their own solutions and help them to find common ground.
7. Express Appreciation
Be generous with sincere praise and congratulations. Make it a point to thank employees for their hard work and dedication. Write a thank you email, Slack or MS Teams message, hand out an award, send a gift card, or grant a day off. There are many options for showing appreciation, so get creative.
Pro Tip: Instead of just saying "Good Job", be sure to give specific feedback about what they did that you appreciated. For example, "Your attention to detail in catching that mistake saved us from a costly error."
8. Encourage Social Interactions
Encourage employees to interact with each other by organizing social events and team-building activities. This can be done virtually or in person, depending on your company's culture and the comfort level of your team members. This isn't about party planning. Remember, that you are investing in building relationships and in turn, trust.
For example, in my global, virtual team, we have a social events calendar, and each team member signs up for a given month. As the host for that month's event, they come up with the type of event and also run the event. We schedule it during work hours and the only rule is no discussion about work topics. It is pure social fun!
9. Show Empathy
Acknowledge your employee’s emotions and let them know you care. Try to see situations from their perspective. Choose words that are encouraging and kind. You may have heard of the Golden Rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you", but instead try the Platinum Rule - "Do to others what they want to be done to themselves" - and see how it works for you.
As a leader, your behaviors and actions are under the spotlight. Your team is constantly observing and taking cues from you. Your senior leadership and peers are doing the same. Each interaction up, across, and down the hierarchy of your organization is an opportunity to build or erode trust.
As you strive to build trust with your employees, also be aware of the importance of maintaining the trust of your boss and other key stakeholders. In many cases, their trust is essential for you to be successful in your role.
You were promoted to leadership because of your technical expertise and business acumen. But as you move up the ranks, your technical skills become less important than your ability to lead and motivate others. Your success as a leader depends on your ability to gain the trust of your team and other stakeholders.
When you demonstrate competence, people are more likely to trust you. They know that you have the knowledge and skills to do your job well. As a leader, you need to be competent in your technical skills and also in your ability to lead and motivate others.
Here are 9 key areas to focus on to demonstrate competence and build trust as a leader:
1. Maintain Your Qualifications
Let your results speak for you. Your team needs to know that you have the knowledge and experience to make sound decisions and oversee their work. That means keeping your skills up to date with additional education and training.
2. Share Information
Your employees are more likely to follow you if you explain the reasons behind your actions. Provide context, so they can understand the big picture and do their jobs more effectively.
3. Project Confidence
What do you say when you present your ideas? Be confident, but not cocky. What does your appearance say about you? Upgrading your wardrobe and body language could help you to look more like a leader.
4. Ask for Help
A wise leader knows they have to collaborate with others to be successful. Turn to your team for advice and ideas. Delegate responsibilities because this provides developmental opportunities for your team. Call in outside expertise when you’re dealing with issues beyond your scope.
5. Follow Through
Be true to your word. Think carefully before taking on commitments to be sure you have the capacity to deliver as promised. Be diligent to ensure your team's capacity can handle what you've asked of them. Hold yourself accountable for your actions. Fulfilling your commitments builds trust.
6. Acknowledge Setbacks
Admit it when you’re unable to meet expectations. Blaming others or making excuses damages your relationships and prevents you from learning from your experiences. Pay attention to how your actions affect others and apologize when appropriate.
7. Understand Your Agenda
Self-interest provides the motivation for most of our actions on or off the job. However, it’s important to be honest with yourself when there's a conflict between what you want and what is more advantageous for your team.
8. Value Integrity
Lead by example. Be sure that your behavior and the messages you send are congruent. In other words, what you say should match what you do. Clarify your values and use them to guide you through your daily life. Strive to be truthful, ethical, and consistent.
9. Admit Your Mistakes
Accept responsibility for your errors and take corrective action. Explain what happened and commit to doing better in the future. Your employees will respect you more for owning up to your mistakes than for trying to cover them up.
Successful leadership begins with trust. Earning trust takes time and effort, but it's well worth it. When leaders take the time to get to know their team members and show that they care, they create a foundation of trust that will lead to better performance and results.
I often advise managers and leaders when they step into the role of leading others by telling them that their primary responsibility became two-fold: firstly, to develop and produce results through their team; and secondly, to develop their people. In other words, their success is now determined by their team's success.
I've even been so bold as to say, it's no longer about YOU but about your people.
Managers and leaders who take this to heart focus more of their time on developing their people and building relationships of trust. These same managers also create an environment where their team members feel safe to take risks, experiment, and stretch themselves professionally.
And, as a result, they not only develop a high-performing team but also create an environment where everyone grows and reaches their potential.
Let's Hear From You!
What are your thoughts? How have you built trust with your team? Do you have any advice for new leaders? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
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Becky Vinton - talent strategist with over 20 years' experience improving the effectiveness of organizations and enhancing employee experience as a global human resources leader and business consultant. She holds an MBA Degree and several certifications including Human Capital Strategist by the Human Capital Institute.
I created Your Inspired Career to help people like you find the answers they need for a successful career and enriched life. I'm on a mission to help you thrive at work, further your life goals, achieve your career dreams & reach your full potential.