For leaders at every level, their teams’ success relies on one thing more than anything else: Trust.
Whether you’re a CEO, HR leader or a front-line manager, your team needs to trust that you know the way, believe in them and will take responsibility regardless of outcomes.
“At its best, leadership inspires people to pull together collectively to achieve something great,” says Lolly Daskal, author of The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness. “That kind of inspiration requires a trustworthy leader – one who treats leadership not as a source of power, but as a channel for serving others.”
Building trust creates a community of devoted, empowered employees who will make your team and its projects successful. In her research, Daskal found these actions build and maintain trust.
Stand – even alone – for principle
Trustworthy leaders stand up for the greater good, even when it goes against the prevailing trend or “the way we’ve always done it.”
Sometimes the greater good is exactly what your employees want. Sometimes it’s what the company needs. You gain trust by recognizing and fighting for the decision that helps most.
Help others be better
The best leaders don’t just train or coach. They invest in relationships with employees and colleagues. They support others’ initiative and to grow and improve.
You want to nurture development and advancement -– even if it means you’ll lose good employees – by helping them find opportunities and training.
Face issues head-on
Trustworthy leaders don’t sweep issues under the rug. They don’t avoid difficult conversations or situations.
Instead, you build trust by acknowledging situations are difficult and you need to address them to overcome and learn. Approach difficult situations as something you’ll go through together, not something people will have to shoulder alone.
Tell the truth
It seems obvious that to build trust you must tell the truth. But some leaders shy away from the truth when it’s uncomfortable.
It’s important to tell employees when they aren’t meeting expectations – so you both can work on ways to improve – and when they’re exceeding expectations – so you can work on ways to help them move up.
Equally important is truth from above. Be straight with your team about company information that affects them, especially if it’s negative, such as layoffs or downturns.
Be steady under pressure
Not much is more reassuring than a leader who stays calm and consistent under pressure. Leaders who do the opposite – become agitated, frustrated and angry – in stressful situations build walls, not trust.
Instead, you want to maintain a calm vigilance in stressful times – perhaps your busiest season or when your team is taxed with unforeseen demand – to prove you believe the team can prevail.
To build trust with your team, colleagues and bosses, you want to take responsibility at one important time and pass it along for another.
Point at yourself when your team falls short or makes mistakes. Give your team or colleagues the credit in successes.
Others rally behind leaders who share victories and take responsibility in defeat. Use both situations to help everyone involved learn from what worked and what didn’t.