Recently a CEO asked a question that other leaders are likely thinking: How can my actions inspire my team members and employees to be great salespeople or performers, when COVID, racial justice issues and other things going on in the world are wearing people down?
My initial response was: Now more than ever, we know that communication and relationships need to be the focus for alignment, execution and capacity – or higher levels of performance – to be realized. The more transparent we can be in our communication, then the more our team members will know that we value them as a person first and that their role as a team member is secondary.
But how? At the end of the day, how can you communicate more effectively and build better relationships? The short answer is TRUST. Research shows that “building a culture of trust is what makes a meaningful difference.” If you want your employees to be more productive, have more energy and be more engaged, then create a culture of trust. If you want team members to offer more ideas and solutions, be better team players and more loyal to your organization, then become a trusted leader.
Here are four actions you can take to build trust and inspire your team members, especially during challenging times:
In a world where so much focus in on what is wrong, create a high-trust culture by noticing when your team members do something right. Take it a step beyond that and recognize their accomplishment or celebrate excellence.
Sometimes recognition may be a private thank-you, but if at all possible, give this thank you in person rather than in writing. The in person thank you could also be through Zoom or Facetime.
Also consider creating a public opportunity to recognize excellence to kick off a staff or team meeting. Recognize a team member who has demonstrated a core value of the organization or who has gone above and beyond in their effort and performance.
Once employees are trained, tell them what to do rather than how to do it. Most people greatly value autonomy and the ability to function independently without being micro-managed.
By giving your team members the freedom to come up with their own solutions, not only will they be more inspired, but they also are likely come up with an idea or innovation that you would have never dreamed of.
Being transparent with employees helps them feel more like a part of the team and leads to greater feelings of trust. We know intentional and ongoing communication with team members increases both engagement and productivity.
For example, having a daily Take 5 with your direct reports and then asking them to do the same with those they lead is a simple but effective way to communicate intentionally and consistently with your team members.
Remember to use discretion and discipline when doing this by asking yourself:
- What do I need to share? How much is actually helpful?
- Who do I need to share it with? Are they the right people?
- When is the best time to share it? Is now the right time? Am I sharing it for my own good? Or am I sharing it for the highest possible good of my organization and team members?
Oftentimes we think about leadership as telling others what to do to. However, without letting down our wall of invincibility and asking for help, trust will almost certainly never develop. In the Culture Code, Daniel Coyle talks about “exchanges of vulnerability” as being the process through which trusting relationships and higher performance are built.
While some leaders may buy into the myth that vulnerability is weakness, instead, I like to think of vulnerability as being human. It’s the emotions we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. As Brene Brown said:
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weaknesses.”
Being vulnerable can be as simple as acknowledging mistakes or asking team members for feedback and then genuinely considering it. Explore using versions of these 3 phrases, or questions, and see how it impacts your relationships and builds trust:
- I apologize and take responsibility for that.
- What can I do to better support (or challenge) you?
- How can we do this better?
Trust is not built in a day. Trust is developed over time through intentional and consistent efforts to communicate effectively and build positive relationships with those you lead. Research by the Center for Creative Leadership indicates that people show up and do their best in high-trust environments. If you want to inspire your team members to be the best they can be, look inward and ask yourself:
“What’s under my control today?”
Commit to one of the four intentional actions for building trust and be intentional and consistent for the next 30 days. Regardless of the immediate outcome, know you’re investing in a culture of trust that will eventually elevate your team members with renewed energy, increased productivity, and higher levels of performance.
After you’ve been intentionally and consistently building trust for 30 days, send me an email and let me know how it went – firstname.lastname@example.org.