Building Trust With Your Team

You’ve probably heard that old saying, “people quit their bosses, not their jobs.”

You may even have quit a job or two yourself because of a bad boss, so you know that one of the most important parts of being a good leader is to build trust with your team. They need to trust that you’re competent, you’ll be fair, and that you have their backs in any situation.

Whether you’re new to management in general or taking over a new team, you need to gain that trust quickly – and fight to keep it through thick and thin.

Keep these six principals in mind to to help you out:

1. Listen carefully. When someone feels heard, they’ll start to give you some of their hard-earned trust. Tell your team you want to hear their ideas and concerns – and then listen carefully to what their say. Use the opportunity to learn, and to engage in real dialogue rather than trying to impress your own point across. Practice active listening by asking questions and even taking notes if you need to. Afterward, be sure to act on what you’ve learned.

2. Communicate clearly. Ambiguous statements and unclear expectations create unnecessary frustration in your team, and can quickly lead to mistrust. Don’t leave room for misinterpretation in your emails and in-person communications. When you’re clear about your expectations and priorities, your team can meet them. When you’re clear about assigning tasks and giving feedback, you’ll avoid sending mixed messages.

3. Trust your team through challenges. When times get tough, a leader’s natural tendency may be to keep the problem close to her chest. But people are good at reading between the lines, and if it looks like you’re hiding something, your team may assume the worst. During times of pressure and crisis, your team needs to hear from you. If you can trust them and empower them to help overcome the organization’s challenges, they’ll step up to the plate.

4. Give credit where credit is due. An effective leader accepts responsibility for his team’s setbacks, and passes on praise for his team’s achievements. Never try to take sole credit for something the team did as a whole – that’s one of the fastest ways to foster mistrust and resentment. You team needs to know that you’re their advocate. You should praise their efforts and results, and stand up for them when there are problems.

5. Step back and let them work. Trust your team to accomplish their work without constant oversight from you. At first you may need to work more closely with them in order to get a feel for the process, but get rid of the leash as soon as possible. If your team doesn’t feel like you trust them to work without micromanagement, they’re not very likely to return the trust.

6. Thank your team. The simple act of thanking your team for their efforts can be incredibly powerful. Celebrate the big successes with something like a lunch out, but don’t forget to thank them for putting in the daily grind, too. A team that feels its efforts are appreciated will achieve great things.

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Travis R. Sitter, MPA

I know that thanking your team is crucial. I have a great boss that exemplifies this notion. She makes sure to go out of her way to offer her genuine thanks. There are other colleagues that I have spoken with who do not receive accolades.