Leadership: 3 Ways to Build Trust

When it comes to great leadership, much of what is known and talked about depends upon trust. From building high performance teams and inspiring employees to having difficult conversations, trust is the foundation upon which success in managing and leading others is built. Without trust, all the sophisticated communication and motivational techniques in the world will not help you lead your organization. So, building and demonstrating trust is absolutely critical to leadership. For more about trust, read Arden Coaching’s article, “Trust: The Cornerstone of Productive Relationships.”

If you are looking to establish trust with your employees or colleagues — or keep high levels of trust in good working order — here are three sure-fire ways to make that happen.

1. Be Clear About Your Expectations

Have you ever worked on a project only to discover that there was a deadline you were not aware of? Or a team norm you didn’t know about? Have you ever encountered a situation where an expectation that XYZ would be covered in your final report was not communicated to you by your supervisor?

How did you feel about the person who led the project — the person you counted on to provide the information you needed to get the job done? Perhaps you felt blind-sided, or set-up. It may have made you embarrassed or angry. Certainly, whatever levels of trust you had in that person were diminished or lost.

Don’t let this person be you! Be as clear, honest, and thorough as possible about your expectations — work parameters, deadlines, team behaviors, organizational norms, goals and objectives. Aim for full disclosure. Never assume that your expectations are known to the other person — or that your expectations are automatically agreed upon. Talk about your expectations. Clarify and define them. Hash them out.

Once you have clearly established expectations, stick with them. If you told an employee that you did not expect a financial analysis in the initial product development report, do not change your expectation mid-stream. Open, genuine clarity about expectations — and sticking to them — is a huge trust-builder.

2. Be a Straight Talker

Be honest, sincere, and direct with people. Tell people as much as possible about the work, the context, and the organizational goals. Tell the truth. Tell them when you can’t tell them.

We also have a tendency to complicate things. Perhaps it makes us feel important that our work is sophisticated and complex. Perhaps we get so engrossed in the nuances of our work that we struggle to keep it simple. Resist this urge! Simple words are best. Candid, straightforward language is most effective.

Communicate in this way consistently. This approach demonstrates integrity and reliability. If you build a reputation for “telling it like it is,” warts and all, people value and respect the honestly and the transparency… and they will trust you!

3. Deliver

To build trust it is absolutely vital that you keep your promises. Work diligently to be reliable, making good on all your deliverables — whatever they may be. “Under-promise and over-deliver” is a time-honored adage because it works. Promising to follow-up on post-meeting tasks in ten days, and accomplishing those things in seven is much better than promising those things in two days and getting them done in seven.

“Amanda said she would discuss our budget recommendations with the CEO and get back to us next week.” Did she? If she did, Amanda has strengthened her trust. If not, well, that’s a lesson learned isn’t it? If it seems to be part of a pattern, we know that we can’t count on Amanda.

Delivering results matters for small things as well as big things. Amanda may have taken pride in shepherding a major project to completion on time, but her team will take note, and remember, that she never did have the promised budget conversation with the CEO, or respond to emails about it.

For more, read, “Essentials of Team Performance: Trust,” Also, read, “I’d Rather Work with Someone I Trust: Teams, Performance, and Trust.”

To learn more about building trust and developing the critical characteristics of great leadership, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.