Start with Trust
Buildings need a cornerstone of strength and guidance. It provides the foundation for which the entire structure is created. Without it, walls will be weak and threaten the integrity of the building and everything in it. The cornerstone that all great teams have is to start with trust.
Without it, relationships break down and fail to function. But if you build your relationships and start with trust, there is no end to what you can do. The key to getting the most out of your team’s productivity is their trust in you as a leader. All great teams start with trust. A number of years ago, I worked with a company that made several large changes at the executive level. The transition was easy in some departments but nearly shattered others. On one hand, we saw a very quick rise in employee engagement and therefore department productivity increased. This group embraced their new leader, and she embraced them. She took the time to get to know each of her people and developed relationships with them.
The team eventually increased the amount of time they spent in the office because they wanted to. Unfortunately, we saw a sharp increase in turnover in the other group. Employees began working fewer hours and their productivity decreased. Morale was extremely low. And the worst part was, their new executive seemed unconcerned. He was ready to keep moving along and felt that his team just couldn’t keep up with his go-getter style. He expected his team to be with him every step of the way, but it was up to them to keep up.
We studied these situations and interviewed the employees during this transition in the company at one month, four months, and nine months into the change. There was a stark contrast that developed over time in the employees’ attitudes within each of these departments. It was clear that one leader had the right mix for their team while the other simply wasn’t the right fit for the company. The problems began with attitude.
Trust is earned
The second leader had been a rising star in a sister company. He was brash and had an “I can do anything” philosophy, but added the thought that he would do it himself if his team wasn’t going to do it. He had a knack for belittling his team members in front of the department in order to ‘motivate’ them. We found that team members were afraid to make mistakes, and therefore became timid in everything they did. Mistakes meant that they would be ridiculed in front of their team or worse, they could be fired. Productivity went down along with the trust that they had once had. The difference was they did not start with trust. The leader that embraced her team was intentional about building trust. From day one, she set out to do three things:
Three ways to earn trust
- Respect and understand how her team’s personal lives intersected with work. She took the time to get to know her team on a personal level. She learned about their families, the things they liked to do at work, and the things they did not like about work. The team knew that she cared about them.
- Create an atmosphere among her team that fosters growth. Learning and development is the way that a team can improve over time, and she knew this. She encouraged her team by giving them access to participate and share training. Not only did she allow her team to focus on job-specific areas, but also in areas that allowed them to learn more about other functions in the company. She felt that it was an opportunity for them to see how their daily work affected the group as a whole. The team knew that she was willing to help them grow.
- Embrace and encourage calculated risk-taking. She knew that timid employees would hold back and lose productivity. She encouraged calculated risk-taking by promoting change among the team and then standing beside them when the changes were implemented. If things went well, she recognized them in front of the entire company. When things did not go well, she held private sessions with them to see what could be learned from the mistakes. The team knew that they could trust her.
As leaders of a team, it is up to us to engage our employees and foster an atmosphere of trust. The more that the team trusts their leader, the more they will be willing to give extra effort and energy to help the company achieve its goals. It takes time away from doing your own work, but it pays dividends by means of the increased productivity that is realized. Build trust among your team and you will build your team.