handshake between colleagues

One of the primary components of all effective relationships is trust. If you want to be a good leader with a strong team, nothing will get in your way more than a lack of trust between you and your employees. Perhaps you can recall or relate to the following scenario:

You are assigned to a small team for a group project. While some team members are engaged and committed to success, others are clearly disinterested and shirk the work. Due to a lack of trust that fellow members will complete their assigned task up to the quality you expect, and to avoid a poor outcome, you decide to shoulder the brunt of the workload and perhaps even redo the work of others.

Sound familiar? So much for teamwork, right?

To be an effective high-performing team and achieve desired results, there needs to be an established level of trust among the team’s members. Imperative to success is the ability to depend on your team members to support your efforts, share the workload, collaborate, and communicate with openness and respect as you work towards a common goal. A workplace without trust is bound to result in team members who are discouraged, unmotivated, unproductive—and quick to leave.

It’s often said, “trust is difficult to gain and easy to lose.” Regardless of your position within an organization, it would be wise to foster positive relationships with everyone you encounter and be mindful of the following behaviors that tend to break down trust:

  • Poor follow-through skills
  • Unethical actions or behaviors
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Lack of respect
  • Poor communication
  • Not providing information when change occurs
  • Broken commitments or agreements
  • Unpredictable behavior or lack of consistency

Now that we’ve established some common characteristics that lead to the breaking of trust between people, let’s focus on five ways to build trust effectively as a leader.

Manager and employees talking at conference table

1. Be Flexible

Avoid micromanaging your people. Trust goes both ways; if you want people to trust you as a leader, you in turn must show trust in others and their ability to get things done. This is not to say you can’t offer support and direction as needed, but be sure to allow others the opportunity to offer their input. This will help to demonstrate that you’re also part of the team, not just the leader of it.

2. Be Respectful

“Respect is not given, it is earned.” Regardless of your title or your position in the organizational chain, it’s important not to underestimate the value of treating your employees as your equal. Show your people that you hear and value their opinions. Be willing to compromise. Give others the respect they deserve and make an honest effort to earn respect as opposed to demanding it.

3. Provide Direction

As the appointed leader of a group, it should be no surprise that you are expected to actually lead and guide others. To build credibility and trust with your team, it is critical that you demonstrate the ability to offer direct guidance and feedback to others. Communicate your vision and expectations clearly. An ambiguous and indecisive leader isn’t helpful and won’t facilitate team success. That said, remember to be flexible in your approach and open to insights and direction from others.

4. Keep Commitments

For people to trust you as a leader, they need to know they can depend on you to do what you’ll say you’ll do—not just sometimes, or when it’s convenient and easy, but all the time. Be realistic and honest about your capabilities and don’t make promises you can’t or don’t intend to keep. By consistently delivering on your commitments, you will earn the confidence and trust of others because they know they can count on you.

5. Be Fair

To be a truly cohesive and high-performing team, there cannot be a perception of unequal treatment or favoritism between a leader and any of its members. Ensure that you treat everyone equally and fairly and be watchful of any cliques that may form. As a leader, you want to deconstruct any “us vs. them” thinking that may exist so everyone truly feels they are on one team and are working collaboratively towards the same goals.

As you foster a team culture of trust and respect, your team will be well-positioned to collaborate effectively and achieve greater levels of success. Again, trust is difficult to gain and easy to lose; it’s not something you simply cross off your leadership checklist. Keep in mind those behaviors that break down trust and take immediate action on any areas of weakness as needed. To learn more about CMOE’s leadership-development offerings, visit www.cmoe.com.

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About the Author
Kelsi Mackay
Kelsi is a Senior Account Manager and valued team member at CMOE. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with an emphasis in Organizational Development and Human Resources. She is passionate about personal development and values the opportunity she has to enable others in their own learning and development.

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