Trust is a critical element in any successful team. Trust enables people to work together, collaborate, communicate effectively, and be more productive.Trust allows people to feel safe and secure in their workplace, which leads to increased motivation and job satisfaction. For leaders, building trust with their team members is a critical component of their role. Trust helps leaders to influence, motivate, and lead their team effectively. And trust is not built by leaders hibernating in their offices and sending out emails.
What is Trust?
Trust is a complex concept, but at its core, it involves a belief that others will act in your best interest. Trust is built over time through consistent behavior and actions that demonstrate reliability, integrity, and competence. When trust is present, people feel comfortable being vulnerable and open with one another, which creates a sense of connection and shared purpose.
In the work setting, trust is critical for effective teamwork. When people trust each other, they are more likely to share ideas, collaborate, and work together to achieve shared goals. In contrast, when trust is lacking, people may be hesitant to share information or work together, which can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and decreased productivity.
Why Trust Matters
Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship, whether it’s personal or professional. When people trust each other, they are more likely to communicate openly, work collaboratively, and support each other through difficult times. In the workplace, trust is essential for building a high-performing team. When team members trust their leader, they are more likely to:
Without trust, teams can become stagnant, unproductive, and even dysfunctional. That’s why building trust is one of the most important tasks for any leader.
Leadership Behaviors that Build Trust
Building trust is a long-term process that requires consistent effort from leaders. Here are some of the behaviors that can help leaders build trust with their team:
1. Lead by Example. Leaders need to model the behavior they want to see in their team. If they want their team members to be honest, respectful, and accountable, they need to demonstrate those qualities themselves. Leaders who act with integrity, admit their mistakes, and hold themselves accountable for their actions will earn the trust and respect of their team.
2. Communicate Openly and Honestly. Effective communication is essential for building trust. Leaders who are transparent and honest with their team members will earn their trust and respect. They should be clear about their expectations, share information about the organization’s goals and challenges, and listen to their team members’ ideas and feedback.Leaders who communicate openly and honestly will create an environment of trust and collaboration. Former CEO ofHewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, once said, "Transparency builds trust.When people can see what's going on and why decisions are being made, they are more likely to trust the outcomes."
3. Show Empathy and Understanding. Leaders who show empathy and understanding towards their team members will build stronger relationships and earn their trust. They should take the time to get to know their team members, understand their perspectives and challenges, and support them through difficult times. Leaders who show compassion and empathy will create a culture of trust and caring.
4. Demonstrate Competence and Expertise. Leaders who demonstrate competence and expertise in their field will earn the trust and respect of their team members. They should have a deep understanding of the organization’s goals and challenges. They should also be able to provide guidance and support to their team members. Leaders who are knowledgeable and skilled will inspire confidence and trust in their team.
5. Foster Collaboration and Teamwork. Leaders who foster collaboration and teamwork will create an environment of trust and mutual support. They should encourage their team members to work together, share their ideas and feedback, and support each other through challenges.Leaders who promote collaboration and teamwork will create a culture of trust and cooperation.
6. Give Credit Where Credit is Due. Leaders who give credit where credit is due will earn the trust and respect of their team members. They should acknowledge the contributions of their team members, recognize their achievements, and give them the credit they deserve. Leaders who are generous with praise and recognition will create a culture of trust and positivity. I love this quote from Alexander Graham Bell on giving Credit: “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than to myself.”
7. Be Available and Approachable. Leaders who are available and approachable will build stronger relationships with their team members and earn their trust. They should be accessible to their team members, listen to their concerns, and provide guidance and support when needed. Leaders who are approachable and supportive will create a culture of trust.
8. Keep Your Promises. Keeping your promises is another critical behavior that can help build trust with your team. When you commit to something, follow through on that commitment. This behavior shows that you are reliable, and your team can count on you to do what you say you will do. In the words of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, "Trust is built through actions, not words. We need to keep our promises, deliver results, and be accountable."
9. Listen Actively. Active listening is an essential component of building trust. When you actively listen to your team members, you demonstrate that you value their ideas, opinions, and feedback. Active listening involves paying attention to what your team members are saying, asking clarifying questions, and reflecting back what you've heard to ensure you understand correctly. As former CEO of General Electric,Jack Welch, said, "The most important thing a leader can do is listen.Listen to your employees, listen to your customers, listen to the market. It's amazing what you can learn when you're really listening."
10.Empower Your Team. Empowering your team members to make decisions and take ownership of their work is another critical behavior that can help build trust. When you delegate responsibilities and provide your team with the resources and support they need to succeed, you demonstrate that you trust their abilities and judgment. In the words ofRichard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, "If you trust your people todo their best, they will do their best. Give them the freedom and support they need, and they will exceed your expectations."
Trust takes time to build and can quickly be destroyed.Our behaviors, not our words, ultimately determine whether we earn the trust of our team. Ensuring lasting trust always involves reliably open communication, honesty, good rewards for hard work, and investing in your team’s strengths and passions. And once trust is established, your team is much more likely to stick around in times of uncertainty.
Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.
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