Leadership: How to Build Trust Within Your Team
According to a recent global engagement survey, one of the most important factors in employee engagement is having a team leader that you trust. In fact, those who trust their team leader are a staggering 12 times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t.
Perhaps this isn’t surprising. Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and managers have more influence on our experience of work than any other person. Good managers are a source of professional inspiration, support and guidance, while bad managers can demotivate even the most enthusiastic employee.
But trust isn’t a given – it has to be earnt, and that is a process that takes time and effort. You won’t win people over with old-fashioned team-building sessions, nor with grand one-off gestures, but rather through the cumulative effect of the decisions and actions that you take.
Here are some tips to help you build trust within your team.
1. Learn to listen
Listening is a surprisingly difficult skill to master – especially for leaders, who are used to being the ones doing all the talking. It requires the ability to be truly present, and to focus on what the other person is saying, without constantly formulating what you would like to be saying instead, or drifting off altogether.
I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where we are talking to someone who is pretending to listen. They nod, say the occasional ‘mmm’ or ‘yeah’, but you can tell that their mind is elsewhere. And I’m sure we can all agree how dispiriting and frustrating this can be – especially if you are trying to say something important.
If you want to gain your employees’ trust, you need to listen to their ideas, needs, and concerns – and I mean really listen. During check-ins, aim to do more listening than talking. And remember: listening is a skill. You have to work on it.
2. Be honest, always
Honesty is a key ingredient in any trusting relationship. When you are consistently honest, people learn to trust your word, and respect what you have to say. But trust is a fragile thing, and it doesn’t take much to shake it.
There are many shades of dishonesty – everything from outright lies to being ‘economical with the truth.’ For people to trust you, you can’t be a little bit honest, or honest just when it suits you, you have to be honest all the time.
This often means saying things that people don’t necessarily want to hear. It means being realistic about expectations and opportunities. If you over-promise and under-deliver, people will learn to take what you say with a pinch of salt, and it will devalue the truly honest things that you say.
3. Prioritize your staff’s needs
As a leader, you can play a central role in helping employees to realise their ambitions. But to be the manager-mentor that they need, you have to be available for them. Given the fast-paced busyness of modern work, finding time for the human side of management can be difficult.
Ultimately, however, your job as a leader is to inspire, support, and enable others. By doing this, you will help them develop the right skills and mindset to take responsibility for their own work, and perhaps one day become leaders themselves.
So make sure you have time for your employees. Instead of fitting feedback, support and guidance around other items in your schedule, make them your priority.
4. Trust others
Trust is a two-way street. If you want your employees to trust you, you have to have faith in them as well. That means taking a step back and letting them get on with their jobs.
For leaders who are used to taking control and monitoring their staffs work closely, this approach can feel unnatural at first. But remember, constant micromanaging stifles your employees’ ability to take responsibility, learn, and grow. It is basically a passive-aggressive way of saying that you don’t trust them to do their jobs.
Instead of constantly telling them how, where, and when to work, give them the freedom to find what works for them. If that means working remotely, or starting and finishing earlier or later, then so be it. Focus on the quality of the work they produce, not the process by which they produce it.
5. Act like someone you would trust
I know it sounds pretty obvious, but we tend to trust people who are trustworthy. If we dig a bit deeper, what qualities do trustworthy people have?
Well, they tend to be reliable – if they say they will do something, you can rely on them to do it. They also tend to be consistent in their actions and the way they treat people. On top of this, we tend to trust people who are fair-minded, tolerant, patient, and kind.
If you want to build trust in your team, focus on being someone who deserves to be trusted. Set an example for others to follow, and be consistent, fair, and honest in your words and actions. If you do this, not only will you gain the trust of others, you will also create an environment where employees trust each other.
As the statistic at the start of this post shows, by simply being someone whom your team can trust, you potentially increase their chances of being engaged in their work by twelve-fold.