Gaining the Trust of Your New Team
Developing a Reputation as a Trustworthy Manager
When you're a new team leader, it can be difficult to get your team to trust you. You have no history, and people don't know if they can rely on you.
However, if you start the relationship properly, you can build trust steadily. And, if you've faltered a bit in your trustworthiness, you can use the basics of trust-building to regain your credibility and move forward.
No matter what brings you to want to build trust, it's essential that you take on the challenge. When you have trust, you have the basis of building a high performing team. Without it, people won't accept your leadership, and they'll spend so much time covering their backs that you'll find it difficult to get anything done.
If people don't trust you, no amount of team building or recognition will motivate people to work together well. Without trust there is no "we", and with no "we" there is no team.
To create a high performing team you have to prove yourself trustworthy. Your team must believe in you as a person and as a leader. From there, they'll work hard to get the job done, because they know that you won't lead them astray.
Here are some steps you can take to become a trustworthy leader.
Start With Self-Disclosure
People trust people that they know and understand. As a team leader you can't afford to be mysterious.
When you first start with a team, make sure that you share your background with your co-workers. More than that, share who you really are. Create a mini-bio that reveals something more than your work persona.
The better that people get to know each other, the easier it is to trust one another. People are curious by nature, and if you don't give them information, they'll fill in the blanks for themselves. The judgments that people make about you can become "facts" to them.
Thwart false assumptions upfront by encouraging people to share information about themselves. And take a lead by sharing yours first!
Make sure, too, that you have enough opportunities for you and your team to socialize and get to know one another. Although your purpose is to work, your work will be much more effective if you make time for fun too.
As new people join your team and organization, consider circulating a short bio of them. Include facts and information that will help their colleagues relate to them better. Make sure that you have the bio approved by the incoming worker before sending it out, though!
Do What You Say and Say What You Do
Here, you should only make promises that you can keep. The surest way to lose trust is to go back on your word. When you fail to follow through, you cause disappointment and frustration.
When you're not sure if you can deliver something, say so. Your honesty is much more important than your prowess. People would much rather follow the person that they can trust, compared with a person who boasts about what he or she can do.
When you make a commitment, take full responsibility for seeing it through. This might mean saying "no" to some requests. That's acceptable, because it's better than under delivering on a promise. Make sure that you know what you're capable of, and what your limitations are, before committing to anything.
When you first join a team, a great way to build trust is to achieve a quick win. Make sure that your accomplishment is relevant and significant, and be sure to share credit where credit is due. (However, be careful that you don't fall flat on your face with this first, high profile project!)
Clear communication is linked to this concept of doing what you say. When you keep your team informed, you send a clear message that you trust them. Trust goes in both directions, and when you give trust, you get it back even more so.
Be a Role Model
When it comes to trust, people respond to those who inspire them. We trust people who consistently demonstrate high-quality behaviors. These include:
Honesty – only speak the truth, and practice transparency.
Integrity – establish a solid moral code and use it unfailingly.
Respect – never ask anyone to do something you wouldn't do yourself.
Loyalty – stand behind your people, and your decisions.
Fairness – apply similar standards, measures and expectations to all members of your team.
Authenticity – be yourself. If you try to "fake it" you'll be found out eventually. In the meantime, there will always be something "not quite right" about you. Getting trust from others starts with a firm belief in the person you are.
If you're a newly-appointed manager or team leader, be a model of respectful behavior right from the start. Stay away from unflattering assumptions or judgments about your predecessor.
Also, don't come in ready to change everything: what worked in your last team or organization may not work here. This team and its previous leader worked hard to establish their systems and routines – respect their work, and make sure that you work with your new team, not against it, to set your relationship on the right track.
Be Accountable No Matter What
Take ownership of your actions and decisions. This is easy when things are going well. When something goes wrong, though, don't look to lay blame or find a scapegoat. A trustworthy leader steps up and accepts responsibility.
It's a good idea to encourage this level of accountability in every member of the team. Make sure that everyone is clear what's expected of them by agreeing a team charter, by setting up and delivering regular performance appraisals , and by giving feedback often. When the individuals in a team are all clear that they can't hide behind the team, you'll start to get trustworthy behavior from everyone.
Remember to trust your team members too. Avoid micromanaging and over-controlling behaviors. When your team knows that you trust them, they're more likely to trust you.
In order to trust you, your team needs to know that you're there for them.
- Listen to your people, and really hear what they are saying. If you don't understand a problem or a situation, keep asking questions until you do.
- Step out from behind email and memos. Meet with individual members of your team regularly. Talk to them in person, and one-on-one, ideally every week. Use Management by Wandering Around to keep in touch on a less-formal basis.
- Give lots of praise and encouragement. Make sure that your team knows how much you appreciate what they do every day.
- Use body language effectively to ensure that you don't imply things that you don't mean.
Find out what motivates individuals on your team. Learn what they think is working well, and what needs fixing. When your people feel that you genuinely care, they will trust that you have their best interests in mind.
To build trust, focus on building your people's profile, not your own. When your team enjoys a win, let them share in the credit and glory. Take a back seat, and give your people their time to shine.
Remember that a great leader is a humble leader. If you're in the role for the right reasons, then knowing that you did a great job, and allowing your team to reap their rewards, is all the reward that you need for yourself.
When you first start with a new team, individual members of the team will know much more about their jobs, the organization, and the situation, than you do.
Have the humility to learn what people do, and find out how they do it. Discover from them what works, and what doesn't, and fix problems for people where you can. Learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can, and you'll soon establish credibility and respect.
Gaining your team's trust starts and ends with you. You have to behave in a trustworthy way right from the start, and do so in all of your dealings with your team. Being selfless, and adopting a true team mentality are the foundations of building team trust, along with sharing who you are, making it clear what you stand for – and then "walking this talk" on a daily basis.
A trusted leader is one who's confident in his or her abilities, and who doesn't need too many accolades from others. When you're comfortable with yourself, it's easy to step back and allow others to shine. This is the behavior that best signals that trust is alive and well in your team.