Get the most out of your team: Start building trust

skydiving-658404_1920Last week I was working with a leader who was poor at communicating with his team in a timely fashion, often micromanaging and engaging in excessive oversight. Things came to a head when one of his team members blurted out in a heated exchange that he was “controlling, made promises that were not fulfilled, didn’t share information in a timely way…”

Exploring these issues and holding a mirror up to the client helped to raise his self awareness and role in contributing to the problem. This can be quite hard hitting when you are the one receiving such feedback.

One of the ways of dealing with communication issues within a team is to get everyone in the room at the same time to surface and explore the issues from differing perspectives. Silence, tension, conflict, emotions…may arise when such issues are fleshed out in the open.

Fostering a safe space where each person can be heard, has a voice and can speak openly and honestly is essential when facilitating this type of exploration and dialogue.

Listening to other people’s perspectives creates greater insight and understanding which in turn enables better relationships. The result of engaging in such ‘difficult’ conversations can help with accountability, ownership and responsibility for behaviours and actions.

Being open and honest with each other is dependent on trust. Trust plays an important role in organisational performance and has been shown to have positive commercial benefits when it has been built, developed and maintained (Searle and Skinner 2011)

Returns to shareholders were significantly higher at organisations with high levels of trust, where there are clear linkages between jobs and objectives and employees who believe that the company manages change well (Watson and Wyatt 2002)

Trust is the willingness of individuals to expose themselves or become vulnerable to others (Butler 1999). It expressed by Rousseau et al. (1998, p.395) as “a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another.”

Trust is difficult to describe but you know immediately when it is not present. It holds people together, is earned and tends to grow at a slow pace. Research indicates that this is unlikely to be achieved at work in less than 5 years.

The 5 drivers of trust as found by ILM research are openness, effective communication, the ability to make decisions, integrity and competence. Trust is dynamic and leads to behavioural expectations.

Some ways to engender trust:

Demonstrate integrity, keep your word and deliver your promises. If you fail to do these, others will lose their trust in you. If others have little trust in you, they are less likely to respect you, believe what you say or be influenced by you. Leaders achieve results through others. If you cannot influence your people, you are less likely to get the results that you seek

Build relationships and rapport with your staff and get to know them beyond the role that they do. Swap a lunch / coffee break with your peers, for one with your staff / direct reports on a regular basis. In large organisations where this is a challenge, communicate with your staff through regular updates, newsletters, video conferencing… Maintain open and honest lines of communications, sharing information and knowledge

Show your human side. To enable others to trust us, we may need to show some vulnerability. In my experience, this can be a challenge for some. Many who lead or are in a position of authority are reluctant to display any signs of vulnerability for the fear of being perceived as weak or not in control.

It takes courage to leave the ego behind and let people see something of the real you. This does not mean baring all but showing that you are human. I recall a team coaching session where one of the members shared how he felt when he was promoted to his current position. Another member of the team who had described him as being “hardnosed, superior and perfect,” saw a glimpse of “uncertainty and frailties”. Her perspective of him shifted and a connection was formed because she had experienced similar feelings and this resulted in a change in their relationship.

Be accountable  when you are in the wrong, make a mistake…own up, take responsibility. People are more likely to respect and trust you for being open and honest. And following your example, they are more likely to do the same

Model the behaviour you seek  As a leader, you set the culture of your organisation through your actions. This could be anything from your how you speak with your staff, how you share and communicate information and how you make people feel. Do they feel appreciated, valued, listened to? If you value your staff, how do you demonstrate this? If you say team work is important, how have you ensured teams and functions collaborate? Are you walking the talk? Do you know how others experience you? Feedback and self awareness is essential

Tell stories Trust in leaders is critical in times of uncertainty and change which in today’s environment is a common occurrence. Staff are less likely to respond to change if they do not trust their leaders.

I often tap into the power of storytelling when working with clients enabling them to use stories to connect and build trust .

Storytelling can be used effectively to emotionally connect with others. Rationality, objectivity, facts and data may be useful in connecting with the mind but they do little for engaging with the heart.

Crafting stories, weaving in examples and personal perspectives, being honest about the uncertainties and difficulties that lie ahead, showing empathy and authenticity in your delivery can help to engage hearts and emotions. When people connect with you on an emotional level, a bond is formed. An authentic connection  takes the relationship to a deeper level and engenders trust

How do you build trust in your organisation? Love to hear the strategies that have worked for you

Image Pixabay


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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