The following is a summary of lessons learned from thousands of hours of coaching and collected via a series of surverys with the GloCoach coaching team.
By Rob Abbanat
Get it right in the first 3 months.
When stepping into a new role, a leader must establish trust as the key element to inspire and motivate his or her team. When your team trusts you, they have confidence in your decisions, and will stay focused even when the business is going through a turbulent time.
Based on our experience supporting hundreds of leaders at the start of a new role, we have learned that building trust is THE most important factor for success. In fact, if a leader doesn't have solid trust within the first 3 months in a new role, he or she has an 85% likelihood to fail in the role.
Aligning what you DO with what you SAY is the key element for building trust, and ultimately for your success in the role. Perhaps more importantly, we have found that employees' perception of their boss's alignment of action with words is also the most important factor for their trust in the organization. That's why we place such a big emphasis on establishing trust as the first prioirty when a leader begins a new role. Here's what we've observed works best.
The 5 Steps to Building Trust
1. BE UNCOMPROMISINGLY HONEST
Being uncompromisingly truthful is perhaps the first and most important step to building trust with your team. This means saying what needs to be said, and not what you think they want to hear. While this sounds straight-forward enough, it takes practice, discipline and a strong sense of values to deliver this type of candor in the heat of battle. Your team needs to know the facts as you see them in order to a) understand your decisions and b) make better decisions themselves that will align with your vision. That said, you also need to be considerate of your team members' feelings, and show support even when mistakes are made, which leads to the next step...
2. BE HUMAN…
Being "professional" is not the same as acting formal, dressing in expensive suits, and using a large vocabulary. While this type of image is required in some industries (banking comes to mind), it does not equate to professionalism. When building trust, it is important to remember that people will follow leaders whom are genuine. This means showing your human side and letting people get to know you.
We always coach our leaders to make time for social interactions. In most cultures, sharing food and drink is a deeply rooted behavior for bonding with compatriots. This is true European cultures, and perhaps even more-so in Asian cultures. Studies show that how much money you spend isn't important--simply making time over a simple meal or a drink (coffee and cocktails both work) is the best opportunity to share your personality and get to find what you have in common with your colleagues. And from there trust will grow.
We also encourage our leaders to make small gestures of thoughtfulness toward your colleagues and your clients. Bring a coffee when you can, and don't forget to wish someone a happy birthday. Everyone likes to be remembered, and a little bit of extra care goes a very long way.
3. …BUT DON’T LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT
Showing your true personality is key to building trust, but you still need to maintain your poise, especially during challenging situations. Confidence is key to having people believe in you and your abilities, and showing any doubt in yourself and your ideas can immediately destroy any trust you have built.
We often coach our leaders with some simple habits to maintain composure, and try to find out which works best for each individual. It may include putting on your "power outfit" or practicing "power poses" before an important meeting (for more on this, search for Amy Cuddy on YouTube). Having confidence in your abilities, your role, and your limits helps others also know how to trust you.
4. DEMONSTRATE ABILITY TO MANAGE DETAILS
A good leader must stay at 50,000 feet, developing a holistic strategy that is robust enough to win even in the worst case scenario. He or she must not get bogged down in the details of execution as this will obscure view of where the team is going and how well they are doing. That said, when problems arise, a good leader shows the ability to role up his or her sleeves and analyze even the smallest details as required to solve the problem. This ability to dive deep when necessary is incredibly powerful when building trust with your team. Not only does it inspire confidence, but it cuts off any possibility for a weak team member to use technical knowledge to undermine your authority. In fact, once a leader shows this capacity, it is likely that his team will increasingly push for his deeper involvement, but a good leader will resist except when his deep involvement is absolutely necessary.
5. DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY
Each person on the team needs to know the direction and must have SMART objectives to be achieved (by definition, this means within a specific time-frame). This includes the leader as well as his or her subordinates. But it is the leaders job to ensure that everyone (including him or herself) is held accountable to their targets, acknowledging both mistakes as well as successes. We have continuously coached our leaders Creating a culture of accountability and transparency is a core element of trust.