One of the most common questions I’m asked, especially by technical experts who are making the transition from individual contributors to managers and leaders of people and teams, is how to build trust.
This article offers 50 behavioral practices to do so.
But, first I will put trust in context by explaining briefly what it is, why it is so critical for leaders, and how it can be measured.
What is trust?
Trust is the level of confidence others (your team members, associates or stakeholders) have in you.
It relates to your team members’ willingness to make themselves vulnerable and be open with you, and their expectation that you will consider their interests in their absence.
Trust is the result of your team members’ assessment of your intentions, character, integrity, and competence.
Why is trust so critical for leaders?
Trust, along with your teams’ perceptions of the degree to which you fulfil their expectations and how fair you are to them, is a critical ingredient to establishing your credibility as a leader.
Credibility is the foundation of effective leadership. It’s the link between your Self-leadership and your Leadership Impact.
How can you measure trust?
While asking someone whether they trust you may be good enough in everyday conversation, it’s an inaccurate way to measure it for the purpose of research into leadership coaching.
This is because trust is a multidimensional construct that, as I mentioned above, involves team member’s assessment of your intentions, character, integrity, and competence.
This also means that trust needs to be measured in a way that goes beyond providing a YES/NO answer, as when asking a closed question or using a nominal scale.
Imagine, for example, that someone says to you that they don’t trust you. Wouldn’t it be useful to know why that’s actually case so, you could do something about it?
To fully understand trust and measure it, trust needs to be unpacked and quantified in terms of its degree or intensity. The best way to do this is by asking your team members, for example, to respond to the following seven statements using an interval scale from 1 to 5, as depicted in the table below.
Fifty Practices / Behaviors for Leaders to Build and Sustain Trust
Following from the above, the various practices or behaviors to build trust can be grouped into the following four dimensions:
1) Go beyond self-interest for the good of your team.
2) Make others proud to be associated with you.
3) Act in ways that build others’ respect for you.
4) Display a sense of power and confidence.
1) Go beyond self-interest for the good of the team (10 practices)
- Allow others to voice their opinions and ideas.
- Encourage your team members / associates to approach you with their concerns.
- Support your team’s promising ideas and help to implement them.
- Look at the other side of issues / arguments before defending your own.
- When tempted to judge someone, ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were in that person’s shoes?”
- Always demonstrate a collaborative spirit and be willing to compromise by giving something up.
- Be open to the suggestions of others by being receptive and flexible while keeping in mind that this doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them or do what they want you to do.
- Think of people you know who go beyond self-interest for the good of the team and model what are they do.
- Never use information unfairly to gain advantage.
- Never display favoritism within your team.
2) Make others proud to be associated with you (14 practices)
- Always be respectful, courteous and polite.
- Treat your team members’ / associates’ confidences as honest, valid and genuine.
- Avoid judging others by remembering that all ideas have value (never judge a book by its cover).
- Allow others to express their frustrations, anger or discontent appropriately, and help them to resolve their issues constructively.
- Always be open to hearing all sides of an issue.
- Regulate your emotions and control your actions until you have demonstrated to the other person that you understand them/their perspective.
- Develop a relaxed and attentive approach so that your team members don’t feel controlled or overpowered by your strong opinions.
- Never gossip or listen to the gossips of others (what you consent to, you reinforce).
- Always focus on your team members’/associates’ strengths and good qualities, rather than their weaknesses, deficiencies or shortcomings.
- Never dwell on negative experiences; learn from them and move on.
- Don’t fuel heated conversations. Be the voice of reason.
- During initial meetings especially, present a friendly, positive and optimistic attitude rather than appearing to be distracted by ‘more important things’ such as checking your emails or phone messages – no multitasking!
- When working with your team, emphasise what is the “right thing to do” in terms of the interest of the team as whole unit.
- In difficult situations or when the going gets tough, evoke the memory of a good friend, mentor, boss or hero to anchor yourself and retain your poise.
3) Act in ways that build others‘ respect for you (14 practices)
- Consider and treat conflict to be over ideas, approaches and perspectives, not people.
- Express your desire for a resolution that is acceptable to everyone in the team.
- Look for small opportunities to build trust by getting to know people, making acquaintances with less familiar team members or associates either through small talk over coffee or by extending an informal lunch invitation.
- Never criticize anyone in public – regardless of whether they are present not.
- Never bully or belittle others, or blame them when things go wrong.
- Never lecture or patronize others.
- Give credit to others when credit is due.
- If you don’t know something when asked, say so openly without fear of being exposed by pretending that you do, even if you or others believe you’re expected to know the answer.
- Be a mentor or a coach to those who show potential and who you believe could benefit from it.
- Always provide timely, constructive and useful feedback.
- Encourage and assist others in setting their goals – including their career goals – and help them to identify the skills/resources they need to achieve them.
- Help others to identify and develop their strengths.
- Remove obstacles that may hinder your team’s efforts, performance and success.
- Challenge your team/associates to exceed their own expectations and become the best they can be.
4) Display inner power, self-assurance and confidence (12 practices)
- Acknowledge the opinions of your team members without backing off when you’re convinced of the merits, collective benefits and validity of your point of view.
- Remember that everyone will not agree with you on everything all the time.
- Be willing to respectfully confront others (without blaming) when you believe they have made an error.
- Be proactive by initiating discussions that may feel uncomfortable but need to be addressed (e.g. performance-related or sensitive issues).
- Never abuse your power or authority.
- Stand up for others when they need support or have been treated unfairly or victimized.
- When challenged or provoked, don’t back-down. Instead, re-state your position clearly to make sure your team/associates understand your perspective.
- If you’re affronted, insulted or abused, don’t become defensive or retaliate. Demonstrate emotional detachment and be assertive by stating how you expect to be treated instead. If necessary, vent your negative feelings later with someone you trust (e.g. friend, mentor or coach).
- Always be respectful and work professionally with people you don’t like.
- Do your best in attempting to turn around or restore any relationships with tensions or a history of conflict.
- Seize moments to demonstrate vulnerability by sharing some of your failures or past mistakes and the lessons learned. Doing so not only demonstrates that you’re human, it’s also a testimony your self-awareness, self-acceptance and courage.
- Always be the role model you would like to be seen as by others.
I guarantee you that by consistently applying the behaviors outlined above, you will build your levels of trust and significantly elevate your credibility as a leader.
In fact, I’m confident to say that, even if you only apply 50% of these behaviors you will still get great results.
My suggestion is that you choose a handful of them and focus on them until they become habits.
Of course, a more accurate and effective way to do this would be to take the Leadership Results® survey, which produces a comprehensive and detailed results report.
In any case, the overall idea is to apply such behaviours over time and monitor progress until they become immovable habits.
Source: Sebastian Salicru