WRITTEN BY: Captain Mike Schentrup (RET)
I have always said that the most important leadership attribute is trust. Of course I am not alone, many authors and experts have given trust the nod as the most important thing a leader can have with their team. But that begs the question, how do you build trust? The following are seven things you can do every day to build trust with your team.
- Be Present: Be seen by your team working day in and day out, just as hard as they are. If they stay late, you stay with them. If it’s raining and your subordinate is working a traffic crash, get out there with them. Share in the misery. And when the time is right, jump in as a teammate and not the boss. Believe me, your employees will take notice and love you for it,
- Keep Commitments: If you say you’re going to do something, then do it. It seems simple, but it’s not. How many times has a boss promised to look over a travel or training request and you never hear another thing about it? Commitments with your team are just like any commitments with your spouse or children. Once you commit, then do it!
- Build Relationships: Trust is the foundation of any relationship and relationships are the foundation of a great teams. As bosses, we have to know about the needs, wants, and desires of our teammates. What do they treasure most? Is it their family, their puppy, the job? How can we help them live their best lives if we don’t know anything about them? So, get to know your teammates.
- Seek First to Understand: This was something written by Steven Covey and it rings true as ever. Trust is built when we truly listen to our employees. Most of us listen just enough to formulate a response, without ever really understanding what the person is trying to convey. The tool of empathetic listening is like a superpower. It definitely takes practice, but you can do it and watch your trust account grow exponentially with your team!
- Deliver Results: When trying to build trust up the chain, with your boss, nothing is more vital that getting the job done and done well. When your team delivers results, your agency’s executives will take notice. And when the time comes for you to ask for some specialized training for a member of your team, the bosses say “no problem.”
- Extend Trust: As a supervisor, you must extend trust to your team in order to build trust with them. By extending trust, you treat your team like the professionals they are. Let them go an execute the plan, don’t hover and micromanage any situations. And sometimes, even let them fail (as long as it’s not a safety issue). And once they fail, use it as a coaching moment and build them back up. We want our teammates to be critical thinkers, so failing sometimes is part of that. Once they know, you trust them to do the job and you don’t get on them for a small failure, your team will flourish with new and innovative ideas.
- Admit Mistakes and Apologize: I believe this might be the biggest trust builder of all. Bosses that can admit when they were wrong demonstrate humility toward their team. It also shows the team, it’s OK not to be right all the time and no one will hold it against you for admitting failure. This safe environment to fail is vital for building strong teams. And if your mistake affected another person, then apologize. If the mistake was made in public, then apologize in public. Remember, humility is a strength!
High trust teams have incredible communication between members. Why, because the members all know there is no hidden agendas when questions are asked or tasked are distributes. It’s just time to go to work. Now go out and use these 7 tools to build your own high trust team!