In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, one of his numerous best-sellers, Patrick Lencioni spends a great deal of time outlining one of the leading causes of team dysfunction: the absence of trust. Lencioni outlines how the foundation of any successful team is trust and without it a team cannot function as required. Great leaders understand the importance of having the trust of those they lead as well as trusting them in return.
Providing oversight will always be one of the most important jobs of any leader or manager, but how he/she approaches that oversight is ultimately what makes the difference. Where a manager might look over one’s shoulder, constantly send emails to track status, or repeatedly question their people, a manager that behaves as a trusting leader allows a person to do their job while focusing on results.
In today’s environment where most employees are working from home, it is even more important for organizations to have trusting leaders as opposed to “micromanagers”. Although micromanaging should never be encouraged, managers who spend time looking over an employee’s shoulder watching their every move are more effective when everyone is together. In remote environments organizations require leaders who trust their employees to do their jobs on their own to ensure operations are not hampered.
Also, as organizations are increasingly asked to do more with less, its critical to have trusting leaders to ensure you get the most out of your people. Most organizations go out of their way to hire the best and brightest people, so it only makes sense for companies to create environments where these people can thrive and add the most value possible. When employees enter an organization and work under a manager that does not trust them to do their jobs, they become stifled and productivity can take a negative trajectory.
Building trust takes time but it is important for leaders to take the first step in creating an environment that allows trust to build. Below are a few behaviors and activities leaders can do to start building a strong relationship on a foundation of trust:
Focus on Results – At the end of the day, the most important thing for any organization is results. If you have already set clear expectations, it is much easier to focus on the outcomes of what your people have done. If results are aligned to what was expected, you will begin to give your people more leeway to get their jobs done and feel less compelled to micromanage. Even when results do not align to expectation, it is easier to identify what and/or who may have caused the misalignment and efforts can be spent helping to improve results in the future versus wasting time focusing on people who do not require as much oversight.
Assume Positive Intent – If leaders assume their staff is doing what is best for the organization, it’s easier for them to trust that the right things will get done. When managers do not trust their people can or will do the right thing, they feel the only way to ensure the right thing is done is through micromanaging.
Get to Know People – It is difficult to trust someone when you know nothing about them. While it may be time consuming, dedicating energy to getting to know your people will pay off in dividends. Not all people are dealing with the same things and learning about people’s lives outside of work life can help you better connect with them.
Prove You Are Trustworthy – Actions speak much louder than words. It’s important that leaders model to their staffs that they stand for what they profess. If promises are made to your staff, it is important to keep them. If your staff does not think they can trust you, it will show and, in turn, you will never trust them either. Be willing to “walk the walk” so to speak.
Give People A Chance to Prove They Are Trustworthy – There are many instances where a manager thinks they must micromanage because “nothing will get done if I don’t”. In most cases, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy where their staff becomes used to a manager being in control, so they make no attempt to do things on their own. If these same people are put in positions to prove their abilities, most managers would be pleasantly surprised at what they uncover.
Set Clear Expectations – Trusting others becomes simpler when everyone is aware of the role they play. When there is a lack of clarity around expectations or the role team members play, you can run into issues where different people are working on the same tasks or when no one is working on something critical. Clarity helps alleviate these risks and should make it easier to trust your people will do what needs to be done.
Putting deposits in a trust bank takes commitment, energy, and time, but over time you will notice the small wins and rewards of the work that you have put into each relationship. As you think about your organization and the teams you lead you should constantly ask yourself: am I a trusting leader or simply just a manager?