Trust is the glue that holds communities together. As a leader, it is your responsibility to build trust with your reports and leadership team. Make yourself available, request and provide meaningful feedback, and model the behaviors you want to see.

Trust is the currency of intelligent leadership. It is tedious to earn, easy to squander, and extremely valuable for every success-bound organization. Teams that trust their leaders are more productive, engaged, and happier. Trust in leadership reduces employee turnover. Let’s look at five ways to build trust with your reports and leadership team.

Trust is a cornerstone of productivity and engagement. 

1. Making Yourself Available

Communication is the first step toward building trust. As I’ve pointed out in my leadership coaching books, trust is the glue of the mutuality of commitment. To initiate trust, the intelligent leader ensures that employees receive positive signals.

Employees need guidance, and micromanagement is not the way to provide it. Instead of having a supervisor breathing down their necks at all times, they need to know that they can turn to their leader for leadership whenever they want.

By making themselves available, leaders signal to employees and peers that they are ready to support them, and they do so without deeming them untrustworthy.

2. Reaching Out and Providing Feedback

Making yourself available is a good step toward trust, but it’s not enough. Intelligent leaders reach out and ask their employees how they can help them. They don’t ask whether they can help them. They ask “how” they can help.

By checking in with the employees, managers and leaders don’t only provide practical support. They also give a morale boost.

Providing meaningful regular feedback can take many forms. Some employees respond better to informal check-ins. Others prefer more formal sit-downs. All reports need feedback to keep up motivation and engagement. When you deliver constructive feedback and expect feedback in return, you tell employees how their jobs fit into the larger picture of organizational purpose.

3. Developing a Reasonable Mistake-management System

Intelligent leaders do not punish their employees for making mistakes. They understand that mistakes and failures are mere stepping stones to success. By allowing their reports to fail, such leaders create powerful learning opportunities.

Knowing that mistakes do not carry punishment, employees will be unafraid of consequences, boldly diving into problem-solving and taking it upon themselves to correct their mistakes.

By contrast, an employee afraid of making mistakes is reluctant to explore solutions and less likely to assume psychological ownership of tasks and accomplishments.

4. Empowering Employees

Employee empowerment is the key to lasting and sustainable engagement. Leadership coaching professionals have identified several ways to empower and involve.

  • Encouraging autonomy. Letting your reports know that you expect them to take charge and solve problems is the equivalent of granting them the freedom to handle issues as they see fit. Such an attitude encourages psychological ownership and, by extension, engagement. An employee with enough autonomy is an empowered employee.
  • Avoiding micromanagement. Micromanaging employees is the opposite of granting them autonomy. Micromanagement delivers one clear message to your reports: you don’t trust them to handle business, and you keep close tabs on them to ensure that everything goes according to your preference.
  • Being transparent. Transparency is a prerequisite of trust. By being transparent, you let your employees understand how the organization works, what it expects of them, and where their work fits into the grand scheme.

5. Getting to Know Your Reports

Knowing someone on a personal level breeds trust. 

For an executive coaching professional, getting to know the client is the top priority. You can better relate to someone whom you know intimately. Such acquaintance fuels trust. You don’t have to impose your friendship on your team, but caring for them on a personal level promotes trust and engagement.

6. Modeling Positive Behaviors

The best leaders don’t just talk the talk. They walk the walk every day. They show their reports how to owe their mistakes and do their best.

Executive coaching understands the role a positive example can play in building an organizational culture predicated on trust. As a leader, it is your responsibility to establish the tone and the behaviors that your organization deems acceptable.

Without trust, leadership cannot exist. At first glance, one may define a team as a group of individuals who work together. A team is more than that, however. It consists of people who trust each other.


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