People & Human Resources

Trust-building tips for leaders: 10 ways to create trust in your leadership

Eve Ash /

For as long as many of us can remember, the leaders within an organisation have had an assumed level of trust. In the traditional military style of organisational hierarchy, leaders tell the people underneath them what to do and those tasks are carried out or else there will be some undesirable consequences.

These days, leadership is less about instilling fear and more about inspiring better performance. This requires the leader to earn their trust. Here are ten Cs to make it happen.

1. Communication – being open and honest

We say it all the time, but honesty and open communication breaks down a lot of interpersonal barriers. When managers start to believe that they can’t be honest (e.g. during a sharp economic downturn) it is a sign that they’re flirting with the trust their team has in them.

By being open and honest you show your human side, and that is a great way to bring people together. Without openness people’s imaginations will run wild about the motives behind their leader’s actions.

2. Commitment – the importance of keeping promises and managing time

Very few people intentionally deceive those around them, but so many people overcommit and let people down as a result. As a follow on from honesty, making sure people can rely on your offers is so important to trust. When people know what they can expect from you it gives them confidence to make arrangements around doing work that follows on from the tasks you’ve committed. Trust is quickly broken if someone asks for some work you’ve offered and you tell them you either haven’t had time or a similar excuse.

3. Care – how to be supportive and keep confidences

Disclosure of issues within an organisation can be tricky, but if trust is important to you (and it definitely should be) then upholding the confidence that people have in you is paramount. Many a political game is played in an office, but the fallout from these games is that people in ‘career-mode’ burn a lot of people on the way up and contribute to a culture of mistrust. By being supportive to people around you, your chance of building real relationships that hold you in good stead through tough times increases dramatically. Show you care!

4. Consistency – how to avoid cynicism by ‘walking the talk’

We all know people that are capable of excellent work but are also prone to letting us down unexpectedly – often when the pressure is at its most intense. These people create an air of uncertainty around them, as other staff members trying to manage the possibility that work produced will be low or missing. Once you lose the trust of your team with inconsistency it is very hard to get it back.

5. Collaboration – bring together great minds, helping people work together

Collaboration is still considered ‘new age’ but it is incredibly powerful in building the capacity of you and your organisation. When leaders realise that they are not capable of producing as many ideas as their collective team they can start to harvest the power of the collective mind. Bringing people together in a way that they are comfortable and confident in sharing ideas brings so much enthusiasm to a workplace that it’s hard to believe there are managers that still avoid opportunities for collaboration.

6. Coaching – helping others to reach their potential

Coaching isn’t so much about giving answers as it is about helping people find their own. If you see someone working ineffectively, or in regular conflict with others then instead of just ordering them to act differently it can have some much better results if you take the time to delve into why people work a certain way, and highlight that other, more effective avenues are available.

Showing this level of understanding, and such interest in what drives your team, you show that you think of people as much more than mere ‘resources’. This builds a lot of trust within a team. A manager that helps someone through a difficult patch in their life is remembered forever. This is all about being a good coach.

7. Consciousness – not being so automated that being unaware becomes an excuse

Oversight causes more damage in a working relationship than anything else. Showing a level of consciousness and awareness sends the message to everyone around you that you are alert and interested, which means they don’t have to worry about picking up the pieces if something goes wrong.

8. Competence – you have to be able to do your job well or you will lose the respect of those around you!

This almost goes without saying, but it is amazing how many people overlook their work performance as a cause of trust or mistrust within a team. If you can’t make the decisions or execute the plans that your role demands then you can’t possible expect people around you to trust you. Sure, they might trust you as an individual, as someone who will do what they say, but if you can’t promise and deliver in an inspiring way it is very hard for people that report to you to accept you as a leader. Lack of competence is the fastest track to having people discuss you behind your back!

9. Creativity – being able to come up with new and innovative ideas, to inspire others, to help others feel confident in you

When it comes to creativity, the best ideas come when everyone is confident and willing to share. As much as collaboration is important, a leader still has to deliver their share of creative outcomes. It doesn’t have to be something creative in the artistic sense, but an important part of leadership is to be able to solve problems creatively and effectively. If you only rely on your team to do this, but never come up with the ideas yourself then they will quickly tire of you receiving credit and kudos for all the work.

10. Credibility – how do others see you? You need a good track record and good PR

Sadly, a good performance isn’t always enough to engender the trust and goodwill of those around us. Sometimes you need to make sure that the perception of you is accurate and informed. If you have someone within the organisation that is discrediting you then you may really struggle to overcome it by sheer hard work. Managing your own ‘PR’ within an organisation isn’t about weaving together a narrative – but more about making sure that the good work you and your team are doing is discovered and known by the rest of the organisation.

So the fickle aspect of a successful career: the trust that people have in you, requires an enormous amount of work to ensure you have it. Trust isn’t assumed like it was in the past, it needs to be earned, confirmed and consolidated.

With our two political leaders going head to head in the Australian election – who will best build and earn trust?

Eve Ash has a wide range of resources and books that can help people change their thinking and habits in a constructive way.

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Eve Ash

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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