5 Strategies for Leaders to Build Trust with Their Team

5 Strategies for Leaders to Build Trust with Their Team

PwC has been monitoring trust within workplace environments for years. However, their most recent 2024 survey highlights a growing trust gap between leaders and employees. While 86% of executives claim they trust their employees, only 60% of workers feel trusted by their organizations. This means that for every 10 employees you manage, four doubt that you genuinely have their backs.

If this concerns you, it should. Trust is a crucial component that can hold a company together through both good and bad times. A consistent stream of trust within your company can lead to higher performance levels and greater creativity. Instead of playing it safe (which results in playing it small), employees feel empowered to innovate and think beyond narrow job descriptions when they are trusted. This added layer of trust allows them to see the bigger vision and feel that their contributions are appreciated.

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But trust cannot be created from thin air. It must be earned; it is not a commodity that can be purchased or sold. To bridge any trust gaps between you and your team, you must have the guts to adjust your leadership style.

1. Retool Your Hiring Process

First, take hiring seriously. A rigorous selection process for all positions makes it easier to develop trust with new hires. Building trust is exceptionally difficult with someone who isn’t a good fit for your business goals or doesn’t value people. By strengthening your hiring process, you send a message that your team is significant, select, and special, laying a foundation for future trust.

Involve your team in the hiring process. The unknown is a major barrier to trust. Empowering your employees to help make hiring decisions reduces the friction that can arise when an “outsider” is brought in. Ask them to evaluate resumes, do individual and group interviews, and take part in recruiting simulations for the chosen applicants. Ask for their input. This approach transforms the “new person” into someone who has been invited to join the team by the team.\

You may also like to read: In 2024, these are the 6 best companies hiring for remote AI jobs

2. Strengthen Your Leadership Tendencies

All leaders can improve. Recognizing any tendencies or habits that lead others to distrust you is the first step. For example, do you tend to micromanage or withhold information due to stress? These reactions are understandable but do not foster trust.

Even in a structured, hierarchical company, keeping people in the dark instils fear and minimizes their potential contributions. Conversely, trusting your team with the truth fosters better communication and a high-performing culture. You can do this regardless of your company’s structure, at least to some degree.

3. Invest Time in Building Genuine Relationships

After hiring, start the relationship on a trust-building note. Sit down and discuss your expectations. As an executive, ask specific questions to build trust:

  • How will we work together?
  • What do trust and respect look like in a working relationship?
  • What do you expect from me as your boss?
  • How should we handle inevitable differences of opinion?

By inquiring about these questions and truly hearing the replies, you’ll set the stage for beginning, accurate discussions as said by identical respect and awareness. This also makes it easier to share your expectations for their workplace behaviour.

This effort will pay off during challenging times. For instance, when I’ve had to let team members go, I gather the remaining team to discuss their feelings. This type of open communication is possible because of the strong relationships we’ve built, allowing us to understand everyone’s perspectives.

You may also like to read: Freelancer Challenges Series: When is the Right Time to Build a Freelance Team?

4. Use Technology to Grow

The latest tech tools can both fuel and hinder trust, depending on how they’re used. Discuss any new tech with your team before implementation. This prevents unilateral decisions that may not benefit everyone. Ideally, technology should simplify work experiences, not complicate them.

Avoid using monitoring software, as it sends the message, “I don’t trust you.” Employees will resent this and might find ways to circumvent the system. For example, a remote worker could manipulate a mouse to simulate activity while doing other tasks. If the work is getting done, why monitor them like a child? Trust your team to do their jobs as expected.

5. Rethink Your Assumptions About People

You can’t do everything yourself. Valuing and trusting employees means relying on them to take pride in their work and perform their jobs well. Start by delegating responsibilities.

In one of our workshops, a participant realized she was too involved in the details and lacked time to lead. She met with her team and said, “These tasks need to get done. I want you to figure out how to handle them. Tell me what you require from me, please.” The crew divided the work according to strengths and preferences in a matter of hours, and everything went without a hitch. The leader was surprised and relieved by how well the experiment worked.

Even if you trust your team, if your actions don’t reflect this trust, you’re missing significant trust-building opportunities. By adjusting a few leadership strategies, you can demonstrate your unwavering trust, paving the way for it to be reciprocated.

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