Team meetingManagers are expected to build teams that perform.  Many consultants try to sell “4 Steps” or “5 Actions” that will make you a “Great Leader”.  The reality is that great leaders and managers understand that the concepts of leadership are pretty simple, but it takes continuous effort and focus to build team cultures that insure high performance.

Though most of us know from personal experience how important trust is in forming successful working relationships, research supports this conclusion as well.  Employee Trust and Workplace Performance shows a clear correlation between higher levels of trust in management and better performance by employees.  In particular, these two manager characteristics had a positive impact on levels of trust and improved performance: “managers here deal with employees honestly; and managers here are sincere in attempting to understand employees’ views.”

Last month I wrote about why Trust Falls Won’t Help.  I highlighted a few ways that leaders can build trust through additional processes or off-site events.  This month we’ll look at ways leaders can build trust daily around the office.

Build Trust Every Day

So, if building trust–especially the type of trust that increases commitment and willingness to engage in more honest discussion around difficult issues–makes a difference, what can we do to increase it?

Increase Transparency–People want to know what’s going on…and why.  If we as leaders don’t clearly communicate decisions or give context for decisions or policies employees will create their own.  Managers and leaders can’t always give every piece of information they have to employees, but I’ve found that successful leaders share what they can and never give false rationales.

Give Sincere Opportunities for Employee Input–I’m not sure where I heard it first, but I love “People need to weigh-in to buy-in.”  It’s true.  No matter the level of employee, they are the experts in their job and they want to have an opportunity to influence decisions that impact their work. These opportunities must be sincere.  Nothing decreases trust like asking an employee their opinion after a decision has already been made.

Move from Consensus to Informed Executive Decision Making–So if giving employees opportunities to provide input is important, consensus decision-making should be even better, right?  No.  While there are times that a consensus approach is perfect, it is time-consuming and it often is difficult for people to know when a decision has actually been reached.  Good leaders offer stakeholders opportunities to weigh-in, gather the best available data and then make informed decisions.  This increases certainty, is more efficient and actually increases trust.  Individuals may not always get their way, but they know when they have been heard and their opinions have been valued.

Take Time–If time is our most valuable resource then giving of our time to team members communicates value better than any other action.  Take time with employees individually, take time with the team when important discussions are taking place, take time to acknowledge good performance and take time to give feedback when performance expectations aren’t being met.  Leaders often ask me when they’ll have time to get their work done if they spend all of this time with employees.  My reply is that the employees are their work.  Of course we all have other responsibilities, but purposeful time with individuals or teams is rarely wasted.

Follow Through–We are all busy.  Things fall through the cracks.  It’s okay.  But know that when employees you supervise are waiting on things from you, they can’t do their work.  Prioritize work that allows them to get theirs done.  One trick I’ve used successfully with a couple of clients seems to have an almost immediate impact.  At each staff meeting or check-in ask if there is anything that people are waiting on from you.  Make a list.  Then, immediately after the meeting go take care of those items.

Is this an exhaustive list? No.  But these are a few key actions that will improve trust inside your teams.  And remember, building a culture of trust is an on-going responsibility of leaders who want high-performing teams.

Jerritt Johnston is the Owner of True North Consultants, which promotes organizational, individual and team growth through challenging, fun and relevant activities and processes.  True North is an Authorized Partner for Everything DiSC® and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™.