Developing Team Trust

To create a high performing team you have to prove yourself trustworthy. Your team must believe in you as a person and as a leader. From there, they’ll work hard to get the job done, because they know that you won’t lead them astray.

Start with Self-Disclosure

People trust people that they know and understand. As a team leader you can’t afford to be mysterious.

When you first start with a team, make sure that you share your background with your co-workers. More than that, share who you really are. Create a mini-bio that reveals something more than your work persona.

The better that people get to know each other, the easier it is to trust one another. People are curious by nature, and if you don’t give them information, they’ll fill in the blanks for themselves. The judgments that people make about you can become “facts” to them.

 Do What You Say and Say What You Do

Here, you should only make promises that you can keep. The surest way to lose trust is to go back on your word. When you fail to follow through, you cause disappointment and frustration.

When you’re not sure if you can deliver something, say so. Your honesty is much more important than your prowess. People would much rather follow the person that they can trust, compared with a person who boasts about what he or she can do.

Be a Role Model

When it comes to trust, people respond to those who inspire them. We trust people who consistently demonstrate high-quality behaviors. These include:

  • Honesty– only speak the truth, and practice transparency.
  • Integrity– establish a solid moral code and use it unfailingly.
  • Respect– never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.
  • Loyalty– stand behind your people, and your decisions.

Fairness – apply similar standards, measures and expectations to all members of your team.

Authenticity – be yourself. If you try to “fake it” you’ll be found out eventually. In the meantime, there will always be something “not quite right” about you. Getting trust from others starts with a firm belief in the person you are.

 Be Accountable No Matter What

Take ownership of your actions and decisions. This is easy when things are going well. When something goes wrong, though, don’t look to lay blame or find a scapegoat. A trustworthy leader steps up and accepts responsibility.

It’s a good idea to encourage this level of accountability in every member of the team. Make sure that everyone is clear what’s expected of them by agreeing a team charter, by setting up and delivering regular performance appraisals , and by giving feedback often.

Be Present

In order to trust you, your team needs to know that you’re there for them.

Listen to your people, and really hear what they are saying. If you don’t understand a problem or a situation, keep asking questions until you do.

Step out from behind email and memos. Meet with individual members of your team regularly. Talk to them in person, and one-on-one, ideally every week. Use Management by Wandering Around to keep in touch on a less-formal basis.

Give lots of praise and encouragement. Make sure that your team knows how much you appreciate what they do every day.

Use body language effectively to ensure that you don’t imply things that you don’t mean.

 Give Credit

To build trust, focus on building your people’s profile, not your own. When your team enjoys a win, let them share in the credit and glory. Take a back seat and give your people their time to shine.

Remember that a great leader is a humble leader. If you’re in the role for the right reasons, then knowing that you did a great job, and allowing your team to reap their rewards, is all the reward that you need for yourself.

 Establish Credibility

When you first start with a new team, individual members of the team will know much more about their jobs, the organization, and the situation, than you do.

Have the humility to learn what people do, and find out how they do it. Discover from them what works, and what doesn’t, and fix problems for people where you can. Learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can, and you’ll soon establish credibility and respect.

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