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  • Writer's pictureTia Teamer

Why Building Trust is Your Most Essential Leadership Skill

As a leader, before we can effectively do anything else, it is essential to gain the trust and support of decision-makers, peers, and our team members. Trust is how we build collaboration, establish coalitions, and get the big and impactful work of our organization done successfully. While strategies may be applied differently with each cohort, building trust is ultimately about being in relationship with others and bringing self-awareness, self-management, and intentionality to those connections.

Building trust with diverse stakeholder groups takes time, dedication, and effort. It’s also important to be aware of cultural differences among team members, as this can impact how they perceive trust. Engaging with employees, peers, board members, and other stakeholders on a personal level can help leaders build trust, foster a sense of belonging, and improve overall job satisfaction.

Leaders should lead by example by modeling the behavior they expect from their employees, including a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to the organization’s values and mission.

At Teamer Strategy Group we coach leaders through the following reflections around building trust within their workplaces.

Undertake a discovery process.

To begin building trust, you must get to know your stakeholders. This means understanding their concerns, needs, and expectations, and being transparent about your own. Take time to listen to feedback, get to know the people behind the roles, and understand their motivations and goals. Welcome diverse perspectives and experiences and prioritize practices that promote inclusion and belonging for all.

Develop an engagement strategy.

Set clear expectations in writing about how you will engage, timelines, deliverables, measures of success, and what you can and cannot do. You can turn to your organization’s employee handbook as a starting point. With superiors or board members, this may look like scheduling regular one-on-ones and reporting. With your direct reports or team members, it may look like regular project check-ins and documentation and review. Make sure all stakeholders know and understand the mission and vision of the organization and make that the north star of your engagement.

Also, prioritize growth by developing a continuous improvement mindset. Seek new training, experiences, and professional development opportunities for yourself and your team. Promote the importance of expanding knowledge and skillsets among your peers to more efficiently and effectively meet operational objectives.

Transparency is key.

Practice being open and honest with everything. Be clear about your commitments and expectations. Be where you say you will be when you say you will be there. Make deadlines a top priority, be honest about your capacity. Speak up as soon as any delays or errors become apparent. In addition to building trust, this allows for adjustments when targets are missed to ensure objectives are still ultimately met.

Additionally, make information and resources readily available. If there are unnecessary gatekeeping, bottlenecks, or other barriers to information, support, or materials that contribute to or ease getting the work done, outside of confidentiality or security reasons, work to remove them. 

Establish regular communication.

Check-ins and constructive feedback are an important part of establishing trust. Practice giving kind, direct, and actionable feedback, and maintaining an open and curious mindset when hearing feedback from others. In this way, each party feels heard, valued, and respected, and areas of challenge and growth can be identified and addressed.

Show appreciation.

Make sure there is time for recognition and celebration. Acknowledging professional wins and contributions fosters a sense of belonging within the organization. Don’t reward teams or promote individuals who achieve their goals at their colleagues’ expense, as this undermines morale and confidence. There is no “star performer” who can outweigh the cost of a disengaged team.

Building trust is the foundation of good leadership. This can be a challenge with diverse communities of varied perspectives and experiences. But building trust is a skill that, with intentional and applied practice, anyone can succeed at.

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