Trust—it’s that little bit of secret sauce that makes the difference between a team barely missing a goal and hitting it out of the park.
A foundation of trust is one of the fundamental virtues of great leaders and influences the amount of discretionary effort your talent will expend to meet business goals. If you expect your team to go above and beyond, they have to believe you would do the same for them. It’s that simple.
We’ve come up with a set of eight proactive ways for managers to take action and forge trust with their teams. We’ll discuss four of them today, and the other four in a future installment.
The first block in the foundation of trust is to be sincere and understanding. This involves several components, including taking your time to listen and think through your responses to others. Many times people mistrust quick answers to tough questions. Also, you should never be judgmental or argumentative, keeping an open mind to the ideas and feelings of others.
Finally, you should exhibit thoughtfulness and consideration of others. A great way to accomplish this level of trust is to make a practice of doing something nice or of value for a peer or team member for no apparent reason. Offer your help on an important project, take them to lunch, your treat, or ask about their plans for the upcoming weekend.
Second, you should always use open and honest communication. The best communicators consistently let people know where they stand. They never put customers, peers, or managers—much less the teams they manage—in the position of guessing what they want or need from them. They don’t play games, strategically withhold information from some while disclosing to others, or seek out political maneuvering as a means of gaining political advantage over others in the company.
The honesty piece is every bit as key in the building of trust. Trust-builders don’t stretch the truth, even when they know they may face consequences. When they make mistakes, they admit them and take responsibility. When they miss deadlines or don’t finish a project, they are up-front about falling short of expectations and seek to do an honest re-set of those expectations.
Third, you should make realistic promises and keep them. This is one of the first lessons that most of us learn as children from our parents and teachers, yet we still need to revisit as adult professionals! Yet, we find ourselves, in pressure situations or, just out of a need to think we’re doing the right thing for someone, make promises we can’t keep.
You should avoid over-committing and under-delivering—manage the expectations of others realistically. Sometimes, “no” is the healthy answer to give someone, and they will respect you for giving them the honest truth instead of a later, unfulfilled promise.
And from a more simple perspective, don’t be that person that misses calls or meetings—meet your commitments, and be consistent about it.
This next concept is the most fun—be predictable. Many of us equate predictability with being boring. Yet, when people are seeking out others they can trust in a workplace, they aren’t looking for a rollercoaster ride of responses, reactions, and moods. They want predictability. Predictability equals dependability.
Remember, respect comes from your consistent, trustworthy actions, not from some title, status, or supposed power or authority you hold.
Predictability cuts back to keeping promises, of course. But it also means exemplifying a “what you see is what you get” mentality. You show the same mentality in relaxed situations as you do high-pressure environments, so people always know where you stand.
And predictability directly translates into integrity. You walk the talk, unbending in your advocacy for what you believe to be right, even under political pressure from others. You never send mixed signals, so that those who want to trust you can come to your side and stay there.