This month we’ve tackled a delicate dysfunction “I don’t trust my boss.”  But what if you are the boss?  What can you do to get your team to trust you?   After all, no wants to be seen as untrustworthy –  particularly you.

Building trust is actually a pretty simple formula.  Here it is:

Trust = Credibility + Vulnerability

Credibility – Credibility is not only doing the right thing but doing things the right way.  It is being seen as both ethical as well as competent.
Vulnerability– Vulnerability is most easily associated with your team knowing what you are thinking –  what your motivations and intentions are.  It is closely tied to frequent, open and honest communication.

A simple formula right?  But you and I both know that living it out is easier said than done.  Practically, here is my prescription for you on how you can build greater trust with your team starting today.

Your Weekly Trust-Building Regimen (fill today)

  • Show them your cards – State your intentions, motivations and expectations from your team today.  I often coach clients to think about what they believe is their “management philosophy” – the values that are most important to them at work and in life (for example: growth, respect, responsibility, accountability, family, commitment, etc…).  Pick the top 3-5, write them down and announce them to the team.  This will help the team not only understand you, but also what you expect from them regarding their actions and performance.  A great starting place for building trust.
  •  Tell them what you heard – When you get out of a meeting with the “higher-ups”, you need to be thinking about what from the meeting was relevant for the team and share that information with the team promptly.  Your team will appreciate your consistent and open approach to communication.  However, if you choose not to say anything, your team’s mental wheels  will begin turning and not in the way you would like.  Stop the rumors quickly and get the lines of communication going.  Trust will follow.
  • Keep your word – always – An obvious practice but a critical one.  I had a client tell me that her manager promised her a promotion several years ago.  The deadline came and went.  She continued to press and he continued to avoid her.  It became clear to her that he made a promise he couldn’t or didn’t want to keep.  Perhaps he had a good reason, but in the absence of that explanation, she sees him as a trust-breaker.  She’s done with him and has begun looking for something else.  Keep your word.  That commitment and predictability will foster trust every time.

Your PRN Trust-Building Regimen (to be filled as needed)

  • Address underperformers with lightning speed – We all end up with an underperformer or two on our teams.  That’s not unusual and it’s not your fault.  However, what you do in those situations is critical towards building (or losing) trust.  If you want to enhance your team’s trust in you, you will need to address those issues promptly and properly.  Everyone on the team is watching you closely, hoping and praying that you will swoop in and hold those underperformers accountable.  At the same time, they are also watching to see “how” you do it.  They want the assurance that if they ever slip and end up as the underperformer, they won’t be beaten and thrown in the wood shed.  Address underperformers swiftly with fairness and your team will thank you with higher performance and trust.
  • Protect the team from your boss and your customers – Bet you didn’t see this one coming.  Teams want to know that their leaders have their back.  I can’t tell you how often over the past several years I’ve heard this phrase pop up – “got our back”.  It’s been used to not only describe the principle criteria necessary for a leader to establish trust with a team, but also for the primary reason why teams aren’t trusting leaders today.  To live this out, you’ll need to be able to say “No” to your boss, other leaders in your organization and even customers, particularly when their demands will require stretching the team unrealistically or threatening the team in some way.  Stand up and fight.  Your team will reward you for it.

I wish I could tell you that if you did just a few of the above intermittently, you would be on your way.  But trust doesn’t work that way.  Just like taking any prescription, you can’t “sorta” do parts of it if you want to get better.  It requires intention and commitment.  It’s a lot of work, but trust me, it’s well worth it.

Stay tuned!  Later this week I’ll offer a prescription for how you can build trust with your boss.  Who doesn’t need that?