I’ve developed a list of six things some bosses do that destroy trust and six things great leaders do to build trust. Let’s talk about the trust breakers first.
If you are closely monitoring or controlling the work of one of your team members, they will feel like you are micromanaging them and that you do not trust them. Ask yourself why you are managing them this way? Chances are it’s about you, not them.
#2: Not admitting to your mistakes when you make them
Great leaders model the behaviours they want to see from their teams. If one of your team members made a mistake and tried to sweep it under the carpet, would you trust them going forward?
#3: Throwing someone under the bus
This happens when you make a mistake but let someone in your team take the fall for it. I’m very passionate about this one because to me, throwing someone under the bus is a cardinal sin and shows a lack of character.
#4: Taking credit for someone else’s work
If you take credit for someone else’s work in front of others, you immediately break the trust of the person who did the job and everyone else who heard you take credit for it.
#5: Not giving a damn
People trust others who demonstrate genuine interest and care. A lack of it suggests that the only thing the other person cares about is himself or herself, which results in others questioning the motive behind every decision they make.
#6: Letting poor behaviour slide
When you start leading a team, your team members will assume you’ve got the right technical skills or you wouldn’t have been given the job. So they’ll focus on trying to get a read of your character so they can understand what type of leader you’re going to be. They will observe how you deal with poor behaviour, and if you consistently let it slide, they will start to question your integrity.
No one is perfect
The important thing to remember is that no one is perfect, and you’re going to make mistakes that affect people’s trust in you. If you have a lot of trust in the bank, they will be more forgiving when you apologise and apologising is a crucial step.
So how do you build and bank trust?
Let’s talk about the six trust builders.
#1: Give trust generously
Everyone says that trust has to be earnt. I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but it comes from a negative starting point, that is, ‘I’m not going to trust you until you’ve earned it’. I’d prefer to turn that on its head and start with a positive. What if we gave trust to others upfront as a gift, allowing them to continue to earn that gift over time?
One thing I know for sure is that when you become a boss, you automatically ask people to trust you from day one. My advice is to do the same for them.
#2: Be yourself, be human
People trust people they can connect with and relate too. They trust those who they believe are showing up as the authentic version of themselves every day. Building the kind of trust that creates followers is much easier to do if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and show your team who you are.
#3: Show up, be present
Imagine this scenario. You’ve got a one-on-one meeting booked in with your boss. You’re well prepared, and you’ve got a list of essential things you need to talk about. They turn up late, spend the whole time looking at their phone and rush the conversation because they need to get to the next meeting.
How do you feel? Unimportant? Irrelevant? Deflated? Worthless? Frustrated? Angry?
These little things eat away at trust. Try to turn up on time, put your phone somewhere where you can’t be distracted by it and be genuinely present.
#4: Publicly give credit where it’s due
One of the best things you can do to motivate someone is to praise them for their work. Don’t underestimate the power of this, especially when you sing their praises in front of the team, your peers and your boss. I made a habit of telling my boss about the great work the team was doing, and inevitably, my boss would say something positive to them next time they saw them.
#5: Genuinely care
When I think back to the best bosses I’ve ever had, the one thing they all had in common was care factor. They genuinely cared about me as an individual. They also cared about what the team was trying to achieve. They looked after us, and they created an environment where we all cared about doing the best we could for each other.
#6: Have their back
When one of your team members makes a mistake, you have an opportunity to build trust. In my experience, most people are hard on themselves in these situations, so I focus on letting them know that it’s not the end of the world, then helping them take ownership and workshopping solutions with them.
When asked about what happened, I’d be completely transparent and stick to the facts. I’d explain that the person who made the mistake had taken ownership and was working on fixing it.
This approach builds considerable trust with everyone involved.
Use the builders to put as much trust in the bank as possible, so if you slip up and doing something that breaks trust, you can apologise and hopefully move on.
And most importantly. Trust yourself. You’re awesome, and you’ve got this.
Leadership, very simply, is about two things. Number one, truth and trust. Number two, ceaselessly seeking the former, relentlessly building the latter.
Without trust, we don’t truly collaborate, we merely coordinate or at best, co-operate. It is trust that transforms a group of people into a team.