It takes a lot to build trust.
In preparation for my birthday, my husband searched for hotels and other places we could consider for our family’s celebration. He carefully read through their websites and checked online forums for reviews of other customers. He wanted to make sure that we spend our time and money wisely.
On the other hand, I was doing my own research about getting a puppy. I carefully looked through the profile of owners/breeders, asked questions and even requested photos of the puppy’s parents. I’ll be honest that I was biased towards those who are able to provide complete registration and veterinary records. I wanted to get a dog (wishful thinking) from someone we can trust.
Whether you’re looking for restaurants with five star reviews or coaches with excellent testimonials, the point is, we don’t easily give our energy (or money) when there is a lack of trust.
Unfortunately, some managers still think that having a shiny title or a nice corner office would automatically merit trust from their teams.
It definitely takes more than that. Here are 5 reasons why your team doesn’t trust you, and 5 ways to earn their trust.
You talk about others
Talking behind people’s backs, in front of other people shows that it is something you are capable of doing. The people who were with you when you said that John is lazy or Karen is difficult, can easily think that you can or might be talking about them in the same way.
Tip: Always honor confidentiality of conversations, and dignity of people. If there are issues about other people’s performance or behaviors, these are better dealt with directly. We don’t really resolve anything by talking about them to people who can do nothing about it. Here are some tips on handling difficult conversations and conflict.
You withhold information from them
I remember during a leadership meeting, a manager was asked what she liked about her role, she said, “having access to confidential information.” While you may feel privileged to know about the next salary increase (or absence of it) or the plans about the merger, not all information is meant to be for-your-eyes-only. Information that will help your team do their jobs better or make decisions, where possible, must be shared with them.
Tip: Where possible, be transparent about goals, processes, decisions and progress within your team. This fosters a sense of inclusivity and trust.
You don’t keep or follow through on your commitments
Promised someone a promotion? Told your team you’ll attend the meeting? Committed to reply to their email within the week? No matter how big or small it is, not fulfilling your commitments has a huge impact on you and your relationships. Not only does it make you seem unreliable or irresponsible, it also sets a bad example to your team. “My boss doesn’t send his reports on time, why should I?”
Tip: Only make commitments you can keep, and keep commitments you made. If for some reason you can no longer make it, communicate clearly and transparently.
You don’t make them feel they matter
Many of my clients tell me that they want a job where they can add value and also be valued. When employees feel like they’re not heard, seen or appreciated, they may quietly quit or find their way to the door and quit for real. When an employee feels valued, they know that they matter to you, not just for the results they deliver, but for the human being that they are. And then they trust you and see you as someone who deserves their respect, energy and cooperation.
Tip: Give your employees a voice by allowing them to share their thoughts. Listen more and talk less. A simple thank you goes a long way.
You’re not there when they need you
Once when I was a project manager working with tight timelines, I needed urgent approvals from my leader. I tried to reach out to her but it was challenging to get through. Truth be told, I felt abandoned and was disappointed because it caused a chain reaction of delays (and stress). In another project, where I was a consultant for a strategic planning session, I asked the client about the sudden increase in their NPS rating in the area of leadership. They shared that this was because they started being more intentional about leadership visibility and availability.
Tip: We all want someone we can count on especially during challenging times. Be the manager your team can count on during these times.
Consistency is key to building trust
Building trust is not a one time event. It’s not a switch that you turn on by doing one good deed for your team. When I was a young leader, I learned this the hard and expensive way. I took my team of 10+ employees to a nice and fancy lunch paid out of my own pocket, thinking they’ll like me better after that. Of course I was so wrong. I’m happy to share though, that things changed significantly as I grew and matured as a leader.
Every action and interaction is an opportunity to build trust. Take steps consistently and soon you’ll see that as you build trust, you also build a better team.