Trust is the glue that makes healthy business transactions and relationships possible. Here are some tips for managers and leaders to build and maintain trust with their employees. These tips are universal in that they underpin the trust between friends, family members, employees, and act as vital behaviors shared among successful sales professionals as well.
1) Be vulnerable and share appropriate aspects of your whole life with your people. We’re all just human so be a human. We all have things we care about outside of the workplace. We also have joy, pain, love, passions, and lives that are worth sharing. By opening up as a manager, you model an important behavior you want to encourage among your team or staff. When they see you sharing, open and vulnerable, they will feel safer and possibly more comfortable doing the same. Brene Brown wrote the book on it (Daring Greatly) and it really is the foundation for building trust and strengthening relationships.
2) Have an abundance mindset. Share what you know with your your team. Believe you are worthy to be the boss and let confidence shine forth from that light. When you believe you’re enough and worthy to be in charge or run your team, the people around you sense that. There’s a confidence, consistency, and transparency to your words and your behaviors. There’s enough to go around and you’re not managing zero sum gains at each turn. Being secure in yourself is a condition precedent for building trust with others.
3) Don’t give lip service to things. If you say something is important, show it with actions and behaviors. Don’t talk about how important employee development and work/life balance is. Actually schedule it, carve out time, and spend some money on those things.
4) Seek to understand the mix of personalities on the team by understanding their individual styles, strengths and weaknesses. Find out what motivates them. What is their “why”? Look to identify how they connect their passions to their paycheck. Doing so will show them that you care and willing to support their growth in a crafted way and not on your terms.
5) Stick to your one on one schedules. This is a big deal. It’s common for managers to have regular check in’s or one on ones with their direct reports. It’s also common for those meetings to get moved, delayed, cancelled and rescheduled. if you’re going to have a regular meeting, it’s vital to building trust to keep those meetings. It shows your employee that it is important to you which sends the message that it should be important to them too.
6) Don’t polish turds. If there is bad news, share it. Bad news tends to be harder to share so roll up your sleeves and deal with it. Pull the band-aid off and don’t sugarcoat. Be open to questions and discussions or specify a follow up plan and invite people to see you privately if they have any specific questions or concerns they are not comfortable raising in front of the team (open door policy stuff).
7) Honor commitments and confidentiality. When you’re told something in confidence, keep it confidential. Violations of this destroy trust quickly.
8) Be positive and optimistic. More than putting on a good face. When your negative attitude or energy is visible to your team, it erodes their confidence in the captain and the ship. Don’t be fake, but find your own style for being optimistic and malleable to inevitable change.
9 Apologize and admit mistakes when you make them. Nobody likes it when the person in charge is unwilling to admit or own mistakes. Don’t confuse acknowledging a mistake or taking responsibility with insecurity or indecisiveness. They are very different things. Acknowledging mistakes is a sign of confidence and integrity.
10) Praise publicly and authentically. Critique and coach privately. This might be “old hat” wisdom, but how you appreciate and provide feedback says a lot about your confidence as a manager and as a human being. Be liberal with recognition and praise but only with authenticity. Don’t make a huge deal about small stuff but do celebrate it and acknowledge good things you see. When you need to coach and correct, do it in a timely manner and in private. Be consistent in the way you speak up or correct something.
11) Help your people build their networks. Employees often struggle to build and maintain an active professional network and to engage in ongoing education or training. Encourage employees to keep their networks activated and encourage your employees to network internally and externally (have an abundance mindset…external networking is not just for job seekers!)
12) Don’t spread gossip to the team. In general, inform your team but don’t gossip. Be quick to share appropriate updates with your team. But, if you expect changes or if the information you are sharing is “developing”, be upfront about that possibility so that when changes occur, you’re not walking things back.
13) Be transparent. Don’t blind copy people in communications. If you want to share an email with someone else, forward it to them separately.
14) Be mindful and aware of your nonverbal communication. It’s not just words that matter. You say a lot with your non verbals – tone, body language, and sarcasm. 93% of communication is nonverbal so be self aware and emotionally intelligent on this front.
15) Stay in the loop with your peers and leaders. Nobody likes to be on a team that’s on a deserted island. Tell your employees what’s going on around the company. Sharing your insight builds trust and chips away at the uncomfortable ambiguity that employees often feel when they are out of the communication loop.
16) Trust building is a full time job. Don’t wait for significant events. Short bursts and practicing the small things each day create a culture of trust. If you want a supportive and open culture, you need to be supportive and open all the time. Daily or frequent practice creates habits and supports positive behavior change.
17) Be unconditional with your employees. Building trust shouldn’t be done to manipulate or control. Trusting makes relationships easier and more fulfilling. Live these tips all the time, not only when you want or need something from an individual employee or the team.
18) Ask your employees, “What do you need?” or “what can I do to help you?”. These simple questions demonstrate the reciprocal nature of the relationship…that it’s not one sided. Then, do what you can to get them what they need or remove the barrier in their way. This shows an employee you are there to support them as much as they support you and the team.
19) Place trust in others so you don’t become an operational bottleneck. If everything has to go through you, there will inevitably be bottlenecks an inefficiencies in workflow and communication. Employees get frustrated when they have to wait on you too long. Give employees “triage” or back up responsibilities based on their strengths, knowledge or expertise. By giving others responsibilities, you are invoking trust in them, which in turn, builds trust.
Eli Howayeck (MBA, Kellogg School of Management), Founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, is passionate about helping motivated people achieve their career, educational, or personal goals and helping businesses, large and small, overcome a variety of challenges facing their business.