Learning & Development, Talent

How Leaders Can Build Trust in Their Teams

Leading a team is about not only driving success and achieving goals but also fostering trust among employees. Trust in a leader leads to success for many reasons, one being that those who trust a team leader are 12 times more engaged than those who don’t, according to a recent global engagement survey.

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These statistics shouldn’t come as a total shock to HR leaders or any other business leader. Trust is a foundational pillar for any healthy, stable relationship, not just professional ones. Being at the top, employers, managers, and team leaders have more influence over the workplace than other employees.

This influence can be risky, depending on the leadership skills of the authoritative figure. A good manager can bring a culture of inspiration, strong ethics, and support for growth, while a bad manager can disrupt well-working, enthusiastic teams.

However, determining whether a manager is deserving of trust is not an instantaneous decision. Trust is earned through time, effort, and results. Over time, a good, dedicated manager will communicate effectively and truthfully with his or her team members to gain their confidence and lead them to perform well in order to ultimately propel the business to success.

Here are some tips HR leaders can use to guide managers to earn the trust of their teams.

Actively Listen

Without actively listening, a good manager will never know what employees require or how to advocate for them. For leaders—who are used to being the presenters—it can be difficult to transition to the role of an audience member. Good listeners are present and digesting what they are being told instead of preparing replies for when it’s their turn to speak.

What’s worse than someone who only listens to reply is someone who doesn’t listen at all. Arguably, nothing is worse than speaking to someone only to get “mhmm” or “right” in return, along with other general answers.

To gain the trust of teams and employees, managers need to actively listen to them—not just when they have good ideas but also when they share bad ideas, concerns, and needs. It’s important to communicate with employees to ensure that managers are not only listening but also, more importantly, understanding their message. By doing so, employees will trust that they can come forward with any issues or—even better—great ideas.

Prioritize Honesty

Trust and honesty go hand in hand. By being consistently truthful, people will see leaders as more reliable and trusting, especially their employees.

Honesty is not always black or white, and there can be many gray areas. Not telling the whole truth, communicating misleading information, and sharing information with the wrong person are forms of dishonesty and can drastically damage the level of trust among teams.

Most leaders would not intentionally lie to their teams—one would hope—but some may hide the truth to protect others’ feelings. This is dishonest, and although it’s not always easy, it’s important to be realistic about expectations, opportunities, feedback, and deliverables. By staying transparent and authentic, people will value what leaders have to say.

Support Employees’ Needs

While leading a team, managers have the opportunity to help employees embrace their most productive working styles and attain their career goals and ambitions over time. If managers take on the role of a mentor, employees will be more inclined to come to them for professional help and advice, which will help employees solve whatever issue they have while building the relationship and trust.

Additionally, it’s a manager’s job to create a culture of support, inspiration, and growth. By teaching employees to enable others and themselves, they are training those employees to one day be leaders, as well. Prioritizing feedback and encouragement for employees will improve teams overall.

Take a Step Back

To be an effective and trusted leader, managers must also have trust in their team. It can be easy to micromanage projects, especially those of high importance. However, this approach is stifling to a team’s abilities and talents. It also robs employees of the opportunity to learn and grow.

It’s important to give teams the freedom to do their work how they like to. This allows employees to figure out what works for them and makes them most productive, which improves overall team performance.

By focusing on the quality of the work produced, not the route taken to get there, managers will establish a sense of trust and freedom among their team. In return, employees who report to leadership will do so with respect, trust, and honesty.

Embody Trusting Qualities

As a manager, it’s important to lead by example. By having the qualities of someone a team would trust, the team is more likely to see the manager as credible and honest. It sounds obvious, but qualities that may seem small can have a big impact on how others trust.

For example, with trust comes reliability. People want to be able to trust not only what others say but also what they do. If those in management tell employees they will do something for them, it’s important that those employees can rely on them to carry through, even when it gets busy.

Trust can also be found in the way management treats others. By being kind, empathetic, and patient, others will be more likely to come to leaders in a time of need for advice or assistance. This includes avoiding favoritism. Treating everyone equally and being fair and honest are important leadership qualities that should be exemplified.

Having honest management—and trust as a core pillar of organizational culture overall—is critical to a team’s success. And when teams succeed, the business succeeds. Anything short of transparency as we head into 2020 leaves organizations at risk, and HR departments must be mindful of setting their organization up for that success.

Mark WilliamsMark Williams, SVP of MHR, is dedicated to re-humanizing the workplace, feeding his passion to build enjoyable technology that actually helps people, inside and outside of work. Mark has spoken at many industry events on topics spanning artificial intelligence, robots, chatbots and the future of work, and he is always keen to connect with enlightened leaders to continue the future of work discussion.