Trust is an essential ingredient in establishing a climate of teamwork and productivity. In fact, cultivating this precious commodity is one of the most basic functions of a truly successful leader.
In his TED Talk “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe,” author Simon Sinek argues that when leaders build an environment of safety and protection for people, their team members respond with trust and cooperation. Sinek says, “When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.”
It’s up to the leaders in any organization to create an atmosphere of security, support and loyalty. Here are five ways to boost the trust level within your team.
1. You go first.
As Lao Tzu said, “He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.” Leaders must take the initiative to display trust in others first. This doesn’t mean blindly hoping for the best – it’s backed up with clear expectations and accountability. Begin with believing in a person’s ability to handle a task, letting them know what the desired outcome is and giving them the freedom to get it done. When you put your confidence in someone, they respond by working hard to show your trust was warranted. Even when a new employee is limited in knowledge, showing belief in their abilities to learn and successfully support your business is the first step.
While studying for my Master’s Degree, I worked for a professor as his PA. He told me that what I didn’t know walking in the door would come easily because I was “bright and eager.” Eager and bright – me! As if I wasn’t already, I was even more inspired and motivated because he saw qualities in me that weren’t fully developed yet. He saw my value when the reality was I was feeling uncomfortable and uncertain of my ability to do a good job with my limited experience. His trust made it instantly easier for me to soar!
2. Demonstrate you can be trusted.
Your actions set the tone for the entire culture of your team, department, or company, so model credibility. Adhere to high standards in your own behavior and expect it of those around you. Be reliable and do what you say you will do. If someone shares private information, keep it confidential. Choose right over easy.
3. Develop your communication skills.
Knowledge is power, and an open exchange of information inspires engagement. People value an honest and forthright leader who will tell them what to expect. Insufficient communication creates a climate of insecurity. When employees don’t know what’s going on, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that things must be really bad, that you are hiding something, or that they are not viewed as important enough to be given information. All of those assumptions are detrimental to productivity and morale.
4. Don’t point fingers.
A climate of trust makes team members feel more comfortable taking on new challenges and freely sharing ideas. The opposite is true, too. As a leader, you have the power to encourage employees to reach their potential by providing new opportunities for growth and education. You also set the tone by how you handle the inevitable mistake or failure. Treat a mishap as a useful learning opportunity.
5. Make people your priority.
A leader has many tasks to juggle. They’re responsible for the quality and amount of work their team produces, making sure existing clients and other stakeholders are happy, generating new clients, and balancing all of this with financial responsibilities. Success in all of these areas starts with the people on their team. When employees know their contributions are valued, they will rise to meet and exceed expectations.
I know many teams, in several different companies, who go above and beyond their job responsibilities every day because they have a boss whose allegiance is reciprocal. When an employee in a small local company found out one of his employees was having trouble making payments on his daughter’s medical bills, he quietly gave his employee a six month advance in pay. The stipulation was that he could pay it back when his daughter was in full recovery and had graduated from college. His daughter was 8 months old at the time. Clearly, meant to be a generous gift to a valued employee, this act went a long way in building a lasting, favorable relationship.
What do you do to foster an environment of trust in your workplace? We’d love to hear from you.
For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, read her Inc. contributions, subscribe to her articles on Huffington Post, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, or follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.