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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

How to Be a Leader Your Team Will Trust

zen stack of river stones depicting team trust

As a leader or manager, you might ask yourself: How do I create and build trust within my team?

Anyone who has ever been a manager or a team lead knows how difficult it can be to create trust. Trust has to be grown over time, and there are many factors that can erode the trust that has been built.

Leader is another word for a manager who does more than just manage. Leaders inspire, empower, and create a sense of trust with the people around them.

From my years in many leadership roles, I have seen that communication, delegation, and vulnerability are the essential ingredients to build trust that lasts.

Teams with a strong foundation of trust are better equipped to grow and succeed. Leaders who focus on these three keys not only inspire trust from their team, but they also feel more secure in trusting their team to work with competency and efficiency without unnecessary oversight.

Keep reading if you’re ready to learn how to build a strong foundation of trust within your team.

Create clear communication channels with your team

The primary vehicle of trust in every relationship is communication and the relationship between leaders and their team is no exception. Communication is the foundation of trust.

When we assume a management or leadership role, we take on the responsibility to communicate the big picture and clearly explain the expectations to our team members. It’s up to us to inspire them, to show them the vision of success and how their role fits into that story.

The clearer we communicate our expectations, the more confident our team members can be. They are able to understand what must be done, and how their position applies to the big picture.

This inspires your team to take ownership over their tasks, empowers them to feel responsible for the quality of their work, and enables them to better provide feedback when expectations seem unrealistic.

And let’s not forget an important rule of communication: Communication is as much about speaking as it is listening.

Robert Half Talent Solutions recommends to “Check in on individually, asking questions and then listening with an empathetic ear.”

Leaders create clear communication channels so that their team can understand when and how it is appropriate to provide feedback and ask for assistance when problems arise.

When a team member feels confident that they can communicate an issue to their manager or lead and receive a resolution, trust grows.

The power of delegation

I didn’t understand the importance of delegation early in my military career. I remember operating under the philosophy, “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.”

The problem is that leaders shouldn’t be doing everything. The role of a team lead is to ensure their team is efficient and competent to do their jobs.

Rather than trying to do everything all the time, a leader must learn to stay in their authority and do their best to stay within their “zone of genius.” The rest, delegate.

In this article, “How to Delegate Effectively,” Forbes reminds us to “start by being okay with letting go.”

It can be hard to let go as a leader, but the outcomes are powerful.

Through clear communication and delegation, team members feel empowered to handle decisions themselves and know when to go to their leaders for assistance or authority. When projects are properly delegated, every team member can act more efficiently.

In this way, the leader is freed up to handle their responsibilities, manage communications with their team, and ensure the direction of the project is on course.

The value of vulnerability

Vulnerability can be a scary word, especially in a leadership role. Sometimes, we even associate the word with “being open to attack.”

But, the truth is, we need to learn the value of vulnerability. Being vulnerable means taking off the armor, removing the camouflage, and allowing ourselves to be seen not just as a role or a job title, but as a human.

Brene Brown, the foremost advocate for vulnerability, says in her TedTalk: “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”

As a leader, we have a responsibility to set the tone. When we show that we are able to be vulnerable, we can inspire our team members to do the same.

What does vulnerability look like as a leader? It might be admitting when we don’t have an answer, taking ownership when we make a mistake, or asking when we need help. Not only does this inspire trust because it is humanizing, but it also provides room for our team members to share their knowledge and gain our trust.

Vulnerability, when handled mindfully and effectively, fosters an environment of growth and builds a bridge of trust.

Trust in the process

Being in a leadership role can be a large responsibility.

We may have to have challenging meetings, set difficult expectations, or push our team to grow.

As leaders, our currency with our team is trust. We have to earn it, and we have to be able to give it. We need to know how to communicate, when to delegate, and how to open up to our team with vulnerability.

These are not always easy tasks, and if there is one thing for certain, it is that leaders make mistakes. One of the biggest differences in people who grow and rise into positions of leadership is their ability to learn from their mistakes and apply what they learned to continually improve.

This is also true for the skills of communication, delegation, and vulnerability. You may find you are stronger in some areas and weaker in others. Just know that these three keys are skills that can and will grow over time.

Reach out and let's connect! I would love to hear about your experience and help you in your goals of building trust with your team.


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