trust with leadership

10 Ways Leaders can Build Trust with their Team

“Trust is like love. Both parties have to feel it before it really exists.” – Simon Sinek

Great leadership is only possible, if those you work with trust you.

Whether you’re trying to implement a new idea, program or initiative, trying to rally your team around being productive or trying to inspire them to be more innovative, if there isn’t a foundation of trust, those efforts ring hollow.

Trust is a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone.” (Oxford dictionary)

That “firm belief” or foundation, allows for an environment where new ideas can be embraced, staff retention diminishes, and candor can flow.  But trust can be built or can erode across any level, job function or division, so it’s important to remember leaderships can come from any where in an organization, regardless of an org chart.

But to build that trust, there needs to be intent and a willingness to put in the effort continuously. Here are just 10 ways I’ve found that a leader can build trust in with their team, and in a larger organization.

  1. Words must meet action – trust is lost in the gap between what is said and what is done, so mind the gap. If your words are not supported by the actions you promise or imply, you’ll never build the trust you’re hoping for.
  2. Transparency – your team is made up of very smart people, and you need to treat them as such. Be as open and honest with them about anything that might impact their work or their environment and the WHY behind those decisions or actions. Answer any and all questions as best you can, as difficult conversations are necessary to build a trusted relationship.
  3. Accessibility – are you available to your team in the way THEY want to connect with you? Though it’s important to communicate limitations at times (“sorry, I can’t right now. How about in 15 minutes.”), it’s as vital to consider your team’s preference to connect with you. And give them that time.
  4. Trust your team – you can’t expect to build trust with people if you don’t provide that trust first. Trust them to do their jobs, trust them to be experts in their field, trust them to challenge your ideas… you must provide it to earn it.
  5. Clear vision – as a leader, it’s important to have purpose, not only for yourself but for your team. It’s a purpose that not only defines who you are and what you stand for but also what you do not support or encourage. This helps build trust through your capabilities and competency.
  6. Reliability – your team needs to be able to know that your words and actions, tone, how you show up at work… is consistently and truly who you are. If you start acting differently and going against your established character, it’s hard to trust who they’re working with on any day.
  7. Empathy – see your team as people, not a statistic, head count or tool of productivity. People trust people they work with and know, not positions they report to.
  8. Accountability – take the blame in failure and share credit in success. Great leaders know it’s not about them but rather about those they work with. To build trust with your team, they need to know you have their backs.
  9. Proactive communications – put your team first and tell them before they find out new or disruptive information through gossip or innuendo. It hurts trust if they find out information that should have come from you.
  10. Understanding – trust is built and rebuilt every day, an ongoing relationship, with struggles and success over a long period of time. It’s not a check-box on a to-do list.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about the GOOD kind of trust here. The kind where employees feel they are heard and can rely on their leadership.

The BAD kind of trust is where your team can trust you not to have their back, to not follow through on your promises, or to not value their opinion (especially when it contradicts yours). It’s obviously not the kind of trust you should ever be aspiring to, your team ever wants, or your organization should tolerate.

The best way to implement these tactics is to think more immediately. Who do you directly work with every day? Who reports to you? Who makes up your entire team? Start and grow that trust with your immediate circle, and by demonstrating trust building with them, you’re demonstrating a model of success that may motivate others.

What’s one way you believe leaders can build trust?


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