Building Trust is essential to any group. Mastering the art of bridge building can prove to be a handy trade. In this article, I offer four (4) practical tips in this area. Learn how to lead with trust and build a great team that will trust you implicitly. Get started now – read on.
When I took the position of Chief Deputy Recorder of Deeds a couple of years ago, I held one on one conversations with each member of the team. Even though my situation was pretty unique, I felt a conversation with each person was the best route for me to go to develop dialogue and begin building trust. The uniqueness I mentioned dates back to 1988. That is the year I began at St. Louis County and worked in the Recorder of Deeds office for the next 14 years. Many of the staff I returned to work with as Chief Deputy were there when I left, so it was unique because I had an established professional relationship with a majority of the team. However, I didn’t want to take advantage of knowing my team and use it in vain as if I had no work to do in order to build trust. After all, it had been 11 years since I had been a part of this close knit group. There were changes to processes, procedures and statutes I needed to catch up on. More importantly, there was the competitive process that had taken place which ended with my selection over that of a current team member with whom I had worked with previously as a peer. I mention this because the dynamic of peer to peer elevated to manager to peer is a topic beast that deserves a full blog article of its own – which I will tackle at a later date.
I knew that the excitement of a new manager or should I say the reservation of a new manager would create a stir among the group. In reflecting on that transition, I offer some tips on what helped me build trust among the group as the “newcomer”. First, I decided to hold one on one talks with everyone. Holding conversations in a one on one manner did a few things: it allowed for an introduction and for some re-introduction of myself. It provided the chance to share who I was professionally, explain my goal as manager, share my preferred management style, and offer myself as an employee advocate. Second: holding these discussions allowed me to listen. I asked questions and they answered. I found the team members delighted in providing their ideas and thoughts to management. It seemed that some of them had been wanting to dialogue for perhaps years and just weren’t sure of how to be heard or maybe who to go to. It was such a pleasure to hear their input on a variety of topics ranging from customer service ideas to workplace grievances. The talks were a tremendous wealth of knowledge. The third practical matter which developed from these discussions were concerns that I placed in one of three categories – Good to Know, Need to Know, and Do Something.
Good to Know was general information either about the person or office culture. Need to Know was an identifier for people who I determined as ‘friendly’. Sure everyone was cordial and professional however, there were others who were willing to share with me their knowledge base about fundamental information I was in need of. For example, there were several proprietary software programs I needed to learn – quickly. Of course I had the procedure manuals, access to the company representative and/or online training modules in some cases. Yet, having a team member walk me through the steps was a huge time saver; possibly cutting my training time in half. Do Something was the list that reflected issues such as needed equipment in order to perform job tasks, improprieties such as harassment or alleged favoritism. Understand that this final list may have both negatives and positives on it. If you are informed of issues like harassment ensure you follow proper procedures. Do not sit on the data, but act swiftly and professionally. If you are told personal information about someone that does not warrant any type of mandatory interference do not break that trust by sharing it with others. Let me be clear on this point. I am NOT referring to company policy of disclosures on matters such as harassment or discrimination. I AM referring to financial hardships, struggles within marriages, or issues with children. As manager you should make it a point to know company policy on those sensitive human resource issues so you can make the appropriate decision when information is handed to you.
Finally, it is important to follow up on any instances during the conversations where an issue or idea was shared and a response of looking into the matter was inferred by you. I cannot stress how important this is! Follow up is the foundation of trust and my final tip. Follow up says “you listened to me and actually did something and even if the answer was ‘no’ you listened to me and followed up with me”. This is how your team members think. Therefore, you should think like this. It is vital to building that bridge of trust.
I have included a link for my free One on One Talks PDF which includes my discussion categories. Having it with you during those meetings will make them easier to navigate. I hope you find this article helpful and feel free to leave a positive or constructive comment (negative comments make me sad) and any tips you have.