How Leaders Can Build Rock-Solid, Unshakeable Trust with Their Teams

The number of ways leaders can break trust with their teams seems infinite. Half-truths, exaggeration, and flat out lies are what we most often think of, but even small infractions can wear away at the foundation of a trusting work relationship.

The secret ingredient to building trust with your team is consistency. It’s that intangible thing that you have to put in place if you really want people to know that they can count on you and they can trust you. Really, that’s what it’s all about, is our team trusting us, and us trusting our teams as leaders, right? You know you need trust. You know that consistency is the secret glue to gaining trust. So how can you be more consistent, and build that trust with your team?

Show Up

The first way that you can build trust with your team is to show up on a regular basis. You have to spend time with and give attention to the people whom you’re working alongside, the people that are on your team and rooting for you, and that need to be led by you. The saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” doesn’t fit in leadership. But for sure, “What you nurture thrives, and what you starve dies.” We all get busy as leaders. We have a lot of things going. We’re multi-taskers, we’re multi-passionate, and we have a lot of different people and projects vying for our attention. But showing up consistently has to be a priority for you as a leader. Simply being available for conversations, feedback and camaraderie on a consistent basis will build trust.

Set Expectations

Another way that you can build trust through consistency, is to set expectations through structures and systems. That doesn’t sound as warm and fuzzy as showing up and spending time and attention with people, but systems and structures bring ease to people. Structure relieves their stress by giving people a sense of expectation of what they can look forward to each day. For example, think about the mail. Every day the post office delivers mail. We don’t have to wonder, “Is it going to come?” We know, rain or shine, we’re going to get our mail. We don’t have to guess where to get it. It’s going to arrive at the same mailbox every day, and it’s delivered at about the same time every day. I know at my home, I’m going to check my mailbox between three and five p.m., and the mail’s going to be in there – I expect it. Can you imagine if you had to go and look in four or five different places every day to find your mail, or if you were checking your mailbox repeatedly through the day until late evening because you because you didn’t know if your expected mail had arrived? The power of systems consistent structures and systems is letting people know what they can expect, so they don’t have to waste time figuring out something new each day. Consistent structures and systems set expectations and ease stress. It empowers people and that builds trust with them.

Stay Reliable

Finally, and most importantly, building trust requires that you be reliable as the leader. If you will be consistent in keeping your word with people, then that’s really going to be the thing that exponentially builds trusts. Reliability is as simple as saying what you’re going to do, and then doing what you said. You can set expectations and develop systems and structures, but then you have to be faithful to keep your word on it or it will adversely effect your team’s trust. Let me give you an example. I did some work with an organization that had leadership meetings on Tuesdays. The key leader of these meetings told everyone that it was to be a standing meeting every Tuesday from 10 to 10:30 for their team of about 10 people. He was putting a structure and routine in place, and he also set an intention for showing up. In the beginning the team was excited about the leader’s time and attention, as they wanted to give feedback to the leader and also wanted to get some vision from him. So it all sounded great. Yet the leader expressed that over time, people seemed to be increasingly frustrated about the idea of team meetings – the meetings weren’t building trust; they were bruising it.

The glaring reason that it didn’t work was is because that leader wasn’t reliable in showing up on time every Tuesday, although the expectation was there. Some Tuesdays, instead of having the meeting, the team would get a text or a call saying “We’re going to meet tomorrow instead.” Most days the leader would show up at 10:15 for the meeting, leaving everyone waiting in the room for 15 minutes or longer. Well, you can imagine after a few weeks of that, many of the team members just started coming in at 10:10 instead of 10 o’clock because they knew the leader most likely wouldn’t be there. And to make it worse, they had scheduled 10 to 10:30, and never, ever, did the meeting actually end at 10:30. It would often go to 11 or 11:30 or even on to lunch. The team members were scheduling their day based on the structures that were set up, and they were actually eager to spend that time and get the attention of the leader, but then the leader didn’t keep his word. Sadly, the leader’s unreliability actually broke the team’s trust, despite great expectations and effective systems that he set in place. As leaders we need to be reliable if we want to build trust with our teams. People are counting on us to be trustworthy.

Consistency is that intangible ingredient to building team trust. In the busyness of leadership, trust is one thing we must be tenacious about building with the people we’re leading. That’s what I’m working on over these next few weeks. You’re going to see me more consistent with you, because I want to earn your trust. I want to build that rapport with you, and I want you to know that you can count on me to show up for you, to spend time with you, and to give you resources that can help you be the best leader you can be.

Have You Ever Lost Trust In One of Your Leaders? Share Your Experience in the Comments Below!


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