One of the most prevailing problems in the modern workplace remains a lack of trust. Excellent leaders understand the foundational nature of trust, and more importantly, know how to build trust among their employees. When trust is present, companies flourish and teams accomplish incredible feats. When trust is lacking, organizations struggle to work collaboratively and achieve impressive results. To build trust, leaders need to give trust. In addition, effective communication and authenticity go a long way in establishing and expanding trust between leaders and their employees. However, to create a truly strong connection, leaders need to go beyond the basics. Below are some key hints for leaders seeking to establish deeper bonds of trust with their employees.
1. Be passionate about the work.
Leaders who possess a strong sense of determination and drive inspire confidence in their employees. People can feed off of this energy and use it to motivate themselves to achieve more than they have in the past. When leaders come across as disingenuous, they cause their employees to question their motives and actions. This questioning creates doubt, which quickly undermines any sense of trust that has developed. When leaders are truly passionate, the people around them feel that positive energy.
2. Care about people.
While this hint may seem obvious, it is worth exploring what it means to care. Leaders should never operate under any kind of bias or ascribe to any stereotype. Otherwise, employees will feel unappreciated and overlooked, which will not motivate them to work harder. Leaders need to see their employees as people, not machines, and take the time to get to know them on a personal level. Caring also means showing concern for employees and their feelings on both a personal and professional level.
3. Build self-awareness.
To build trust, leaders must pay close attention to what they do and what they say. This self-awareness builds integrity and provides a solid foundation for trust. Self-awareness entails owning up to personal shortcomings and not making promises that cannot be kept. No one is perfect, and leaders that present themselves as such will ultimately disappoint the people around them. Instead, leaders need to set a positive example for recognizing and dealing with personal mistakes.
4. Demonstrate competence.
Employees look to their leaders as exemplars of not just owning up to shortcomings, but of performing at the highest level as well. If leaders do not know how to do the work that they are asking employees to do or if they are representing their level of competence falsely, employees will quickly call their legitimacy into question. Competence is one of the foundational elements of trust. When leaders perform consistently and competently, they become believable in the eyes of their employees, who will in turn become eager to learn from them.
5. Listen fully.
Too often, leaders use their time to listen as a time to wait for their chance to speak. Real communication means taking in what the other party is saying and remaining present for the entirety of the conversation. Leaders must resist the temptation to judge and instead engage in real dialogue. As leaders show that they are willing to listen, they build a sense of openness that allows real trust to build and a solid connection to blossom.
6. Approach problems with perspective.
When leaders make a big deal about every issue, employees will tune them out the more they bring problems to the table. Leaders need to have perspective, which means putting all setbacks in a clear context and remaining understanding of unavoidable circumstances. Hiccups happen, and they are better dealt with calmly than with panic. With perspective, leaders can motivate employees to fix things quickly when a situation moves off course, displaying a measure of trust in their employees’ judgment.
7. Show appreciation for hard work.
The best leaders know how to say, “Thank you!” and make their employees feel valued for the hard work that they do. Small gestures of appreciation demonstrate that leaders are paying attention to what their employees are doing. An old adage says that good leaders take more than their share of the blame yet less than their share of the credit. Humility goes a long way in building a trusting environment.
8. Bring out the best in people.
To develop trust, leaders need to act like coaches and help people develop their strengths and move toward their goals. The best leaders challenge their employees and give them exciting opportunities to move their careers forward. This sort of coaching shows that a leader is willing to invest in an employee, which will motivate the employee to invest back in return. This approach ultimately makes a stronger team while also instilling a greater sense of trust in the leader.
9. Avoid micromanaging.
While employees need some degree of micromanaging, leaders can help build trust by managing the direction of work rather than the people themselves. In other words, leaders should ensure that all employees have a clear sense of end goals and the tools they need to reach the target, then trust them to follow through. Employees trust leaders who make it easier, rather than harder for them, to excel at their jobs.