“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.”
-Booker T. Washington
“Trust me.” When was the last time you heard these words? Did you trust the person that said them? Trust must be earned and takes time and effort. However, losing trust can be done by just one action or a few words. Once trust has been lost, it is extremely hard to ever regain.
Among all the attributes of the greatest leaders, one stands above the rest – they are highly trusted. One of the biggest mistakes that a leader can make is to assume that others trust him simply by virtue of his/her title.
So how do you build trust as a leader?
- Be an example
In our cynical society, it is easy to not trust anyone until they earn it. Start with trusting your team; assume that they are trustworthy. If you want a strong work ethic in your organization, then you need to model it yourself and trust that your team will work as hard as you. Demonstrate your competence in your role so that they will develop trust that you are the best person to lead them.
- Keep commitments
This one is simple – do what you say you will do. This requires personal integrity. If circumstances out of your control occur that alter being able to meet your commitments, then be honest with your team and let them know as soon as possible. If anyone on your team’s integrity is called into question make sure that you or their manager has the tough conversation with them. Don’t be afraid to let them go if they are going to compromise the organization’s integrity. Consequently, your commitment to your team is to create a team that can trust not only you but each other.
- Communicate clearly
Be clear about your mission, goals and expectations. The other day I was reading an article in which the writer asked the question, “what does winning look like for you?” Perhaps your definition of winning looks different than another’s definition. How can someone meet your expectations if they aren’t clearly defined?
- Be accountable
At the end of the day, people need to see results. Everyone wants to know if they are measuring up. Establish a two-way reporting system where you are accountable to lead and communicate results and they are accountable to complete their tasks. If there are areas that need to be improved, your team should be able to trust that you or your managers will work with them to come up with solutions to accomplish the organization’s goals. They should trust that you want to bring out their best potential so that you can achieve the best results together.
- Be compassionate
The golden rule applies here – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Remember that people can feel your sincerity. If they have faith in you, then they will trust you to do the right thing and make the best decisions that you can with them in mind. Always treat others with kindness and respect.
- Recognize efforts
Everyone wants to feel appreciated and that they are contributing. A simple “thank you” can go a long way. Recognition in the way of bonuses and gifts are also appreciated. Another idea is when you have monthly or annual events present awards that will make individual team members feel publicly recognized. These actions will foster an environment of appreciation and your team will trust that you value them and feel a part of something bigger than themselves.
- Be humble
Nobody wants to work for an arrogant person because the definition of arrogance is an inflated idea of self-importance and big ego. Always try to keep your ego in check. With some people the more they succeed the more their ego is inflated. When you make mistakes, which you will, don’t be too prideful to admit them and be quick to apologize if you offend someone. When you’re humble, you’re looking at people at the same level; a prideful person looks down at people. One of the biggest problems with pride is that your team won’t trust that you have their best interests at heart and that it’s all about you.
- Really listen
One way that someone feels appreciated is when you truly listen to them. Most leaders are very busy. While meeting with people, if you’re expecting a phone call let them know you might be interrupted or if you have another meeting/appointment let them know how much time you can give them. It is ideal if you can put your electronic devices aside and give them your full attention. If they suggest solutions or ideas and you implement them, they will know that you listened to them and that they are a valuable part of your team (be sure to thank them for their input). Then they will continue to communicate their ideas because they trust that you will listen.
If you implement the above ideas I’m confident that you will build a team that collaborates through trust and open communication. This in turn will boost job satisfaction, create camaraderie, foster loyalty and hopefully generate an increase in profits.