How to Build Trust as a Leader

Successful teams are built on foundations of trust. Creating trusting relationships between leadership and teams, and within the team itself, are essential elements of healthy, engaged and productive workplaces. Trust, like respect, must be earned. This can take time depending on different relationships and dynamics of the team, and also on the previous experience of the individuals concerned. Some people find it harder to trust than others. These steps are a starting point for leaders to build trust with their teams.

Be a Good Role Model

Lead by positive example. Demonstrate the behaviour and values you wish to see in your team. Others will feel more positively towards you and may begin to model your behaviour to expand the feeling of trust within the team.

Be Honest

People will usually trust you more if they know they can rely on you to be honest, even when the truth may not be what they want to hear. Own your mistakes, and expect the same from your team. There may be things that you are unable to share, so be honest about this as well. If you are perceived to be hiding something the trust will be damaged. Reassure people that you are sharing as much as you are able, and keep them informed as much as you can.

Be Transparent

Be transparent with your decision making and communicate as openly as possible with your team. When decisions are made that affect everyone, people need to see that their views and opinions haven’t just been overlooked. Enable people to see the bigger picture and understand the reasons for decisions and changes that may be beyond their control. Give your team a voice whenever possible, listen to them, and if you aren’t able to follow through on their ideas or requests, be honest and explain why.

Speak Up For Your Team

At times when unreasonable demands are put on your team, speak up for and even defend them if necessary. Don’t allow unfair criticism of your team, you may be the only voice they have. When they perform well or exceed expectations, make sure that they get the credit and recognition they deserve. Your team will appreciate you speaking up for them and acknowledging their efforts.

Don’t Micromanage

If you trust people, give them the space to do their jobs well. When people feel that you trust them to get on with things without someone looking over their shoulder, they are more likely to trust you and others as well. As long as people are clear on what’s expected from them, and they have all the resources they need, you should be able to take a step back and trust your team. Let them know you are there if needed, and check-in only at pre-arranged intervals.

Start with these five behaviours to build a trusting relationship with your team. If trust is broken, act quickly to avoid irreparable damage to the leadership and team relationship. Develop a culture where open conversations are encouraged, and take steps to resolve misunderstandings and conflict when things go wrong.

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