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How New Managers Can Build Trust with Their Team

Imagine this: A room full of over 50 rocket scientists. Real rocket scientists. And, at the end of a presentation on building high-performing teams, a scientist sitting in the very back of the room raises his hand and asks: “One more time? How do you build trust?”

When preparing to lead this session, I was a little apprehensive. What could I possibly teach a group of 50 of the smartest individuals I had ever met?  The journals on the table in the reception room were in English but I honestly couldn’t understand them. These people were brilliant on so many levels—but I opened the workshop anyhow, and found more than a few who were interested in learning how to engage their team members, curious about how to build effective communication skills.

Eventually, the conversation moved towards “trust-building” and “trust-breaking” behaviors.  Establishing trust is at the foundation of all effective teamwork. Engaging in certain behaviors can help build this trust. And diligence and intention about these behaviors is a critical choice every leader (even rocket scientists) can choose to make every day.

The gentleman in the back of the room just wanted to confirm what he heard…and was intrigued by the idea that he could impact his effectiveness as a leader and intentionally build trust.

The difficult thing about trust, of course, is that it’s something leaders build over time. New leaders have no track record of goodwill to fall back on, it can be challenging to jumpstart that trust-based relationship.

Though it is challenging, it is by no means impossible. As you rise to a new leadership or management role, start cultivating trust from day one, facilitating honest and candid conversations that generate a real rapport. In this post, we’ll show some examples of what those conversations might entail.

Focus on Trust—Not Change

As a new leader, you may have an ambitious agenda you’d like to roll out, including some big changes you plan to implement. It’s fine to have those ambitions, but it’s typically best not to lead with them right out of the gate. That’s putting the cart before the horse; to get buy-in on your agenda, you first need to build trust—and that should be the focus of your first team meeting.

Put those grandiose ideas and sweeping changes on the back-burner, then, and instead work toward these short-term goals:

  • Prove to your team that you’re worthy of their trust.
  • Also show that you are curious, open to feedback, and willing to learn.
  • Show that your goal is to help and empower, not just to dictate.

These might seem like fairly modest goals—but keep in mind that you’re new in your position, and your team may be a little skeptical of you. Frankly, they have every right to be. It won’t be possible to get much done, or to move forward with any big changes, until you alleviate that skepticism.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Relationships

One specific way you can cultivate trust is by spending some time actually getting to know the members of your team—something that may sound a little corny, but is actually critical for facilitating trust-based relationships.

In your early meetings as a leader, put the spotlight on your team. Ask them some questions that help you get to know each of them a little better—and take notes about what you find out! Use your gleanings to brainstorm some future activities you can do with your team, and also to piece together some different ways in which you can play to each employee’s strengths.

Also remember that relationship-building is a two-way street; be prepared to share some details about yourself. This doesn’t just mean listing some of your credentials, though that can sometimes be useful. Also talk about what motivates you to get up in the morning, and why you’re excited to be in the leadership role. Above all, be candid; a willingness to get “real” helps you build trust.

Come Ready to Learn

One more word of advice: As you approach a new leadership position, be willing to get vulnerable with your team members, letting them know that you’re very much in “learning mode.” Tell them that they’re the ones who really know how the team works, and that you hope to benefit from their experience and perspective. Show yourself to be open to insights and feedback, adaptable within your new position.

These tips can all help you generate trust amongst your team members, and ultimately to get off to a good start in your new managerial role. Yet, it’s just one component of being a successful leader; to learn more about thriving in any professional position, contact the executive coaches at Loeb Leadership Development.