Leadership, Learning and development

4 Elements to build trust as a Leader

A team who trusts their leader feels more committed, happier at work, and is much more likely to stay in a company for a longer period of time. Trust works for many things, among which it facilitates retention.

Being able to trust in those who are leading the company gives people a sense of security, of certainty, and that even in contexts and in industries where there are constant shifts and changes.

Even though the majority of us understands that trust is the basis for any successful relationship in any circumstance in life (with our spouse or partner, children, peers, our team members and our boss), nevertheless we don’t think about it until it has been broken or when it’s inexistent. That’s when it becomes a problem and sets the situation for conflict. And when it happens, it may be too late to re-build that broken trust again.

Trusting No One

Trusting no one

One of the elements that comes up very often in the corporate Leadership development programs we facilitate is the message many leaders have received in the past: ‘don’t trust anyone’. This message has been passed on to them by their parents, or business partners or earlier on in their professional experience. It doesn’t matter where it came from, and it doesn’t matter why. Probably someone was trying to protect them so their intentions were actually good ones. We don’t need to look into it with a judgmental eye, we just need to know if this belief on trust is serving them well.

And in the majority of cases, it wasn’t.

How can you inspire trust in your teams, in your organisation, if your firmly believe you should be trusting no one?

Its inconsistent and as such, it probably has an impact on how you deal with relationships for which you need to build trust.

Trust Works 1

Trust works (and serves) everyone

Trust doesn’t “just happen”, and it certainly isn’t switched on or off immediately when we meet someone for the first time. It’s built and sustained through the use of very specific behaviours.

Having the trust of the people you lead plays a huge role in your success as a leader, as well as in the performance and success of your organisation. If you can’t trust your leaders, who can you trust?

But at the same time, you are also going to need to trust them, to trust their expertise and ability to do the work necessary, to trust their engagement. Because when we don’t, as leaders, we start all sorts of controlling behaviour (such as micromanaging, directing and close monitoring) that only leads to disengagement. Therefore, trust works and serves everyone, both leaders and team members.

How To Build Trust As A Leader

How to build trust as a leader

It is vital that if you are in a leadership role that you are providing your team with reasons to trust you and to follow your vision for the company. Are you setting the right conditions so they can trust you?

As a leader or manager, parent, work colleague or friend, and independently of the situation, its your ability to build trust that is critical for your relationships and for your professional success.

Building trust as a leader starts therefore with each and every one of us. We need to display the right set of behaviors so that others will feel trust towards our leadership.

In his book, Trust Works! Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships, Ken Blanchard and his co-authors Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence, share the four elements of trust that are significant to building a healthy and trustworthy relationship.

There are 4 ways that, as a leader or manager, you can display behaviours that show you are a trustworthy leader, which generates trust in your team.

According to these four elements of trust, you build trust as a leader when you are:

Demonstrate Competence

1-Able – Demonstrate Competence

You can show you have the expertise needed for your job, role, or position by:

  • showing that you can do the work required and that you can do it well. When you produce consistent results, they gain confidence in you as a team player.
  • Be solution-minded, work proactively to resolve problems. And above all help your team with problems and obstacles on their way;
  • Share your knowledge and skills to help others, they will see you care for themselves and for their development, and that builds trust.
Act With Integrity

2-Believable – Act with Integrity

Trustworthy people are open and honest with others, and they act with integrity and by following their stated stated values. Show these as behaviours by:

  • Keeping confidential something someone has mentioned to you (your integrity and ability to handle sensitive information increases your credibility)
  • Have the humility to admit you don’t have all the answers or to admit when you made a mistake
  • Stay away from destructive behaviour such as gossiping or talking behind people’s backs (this destroys confidence). Don’t do it and don’t let others feel its ok to do it.
  • Act with sincerity and in a genuine way when you make a promise, when you give a compliment. People feel if what you are saying is sincere or not. Don’t say things you don’t believe in.
  • Treat everyone with fairness and respect independently of their differences
Care About Others

3-Connected – Care About Others

Being connected means linking to others in a meaningful way:

  • Listening deeply to what someone is expressing, and trying to understand their point of view
  • Praise people when you catch them doing something well. This values the person and creates a bond of trust (people believe in a leader who elevates them and who recognises their contributions to the team)
  • Open up and share who you are – showing up as yourself fully at work shows vulnerability and others can relate to you more easily.
  • Ask others for input and use collective intelligence to get to better ideas. The people in your team will feel more involved and engaged when they see those ideas in action.
Maintain Reliability

4-Dependable – Maintain Reliability

Dependable people follow through on their commitment, and are perceived by others as reliable. This is a key element that we need as leaders to build trust.

  • Do according to what you said, create coherence between your words and your actions. This is even more important when the topics are not easy to approach or are sensitive.
  • Respond to requests you receive; this can be by acknowledging an email you received or actually following up on a formal request. Its your dependability that it’s at stake.
  • Behave in a consistent way so that others know what to expect from you. You have a choice on the behaviour you display everyday.

These are some examples of how you can build trust as a leader by staying accountable for your actions and behaviours. Dependability is important for this.

Nevertheless, there are many more actions and everyday behaviours that are not on this list. We wanted this list to inspire you but also to leave you some room to further expand it.

What other behaviours would you like to see here?