There are many things that a new or aspiring leader needs to do once they begin the journey of leading people or organizations. The top priority needs to be establishing trust. There are many ways that you can go about building trust within the ranks and among your peers. I’ve narrowed down a few of the top and most important ways for you to accomplish this critical task.
Listen first, act second
Upon taking over a group the first thing you need to do is understand how they think about the current state of the operations. What are their top pain points? What things do they think work really well? What suggestions do they have that would make improvements? These are a few of the questions you can use to start a dialogue.
The most common mistake a leader will make is to think they have to have all the answers without receiving any input. They think they are there to direct and give information. They feel they have to come up with the answer or solution quickly. This line of thinking can be very damaging especially to your ability to realize success with the team. The team will think “oh here we go again another person with ideas that don’t meet our needs”. Naturally they will wait out your tenure; after all they’ve probably been there many years already.
The meetings can be done one-on-one or in a group setting. A group setting can help you identify those who may not be engaged, based on participation level whereas in a one-on-one setting people will usually speak more freely, once you are able to get them to open up. I would suggest a mix of sessions. During your first few weeks at least half of your time should be spent meeting with as many individual contributors as possible listening and taking notes. Use open-ended questions and don’t rush the sessions.
Listening before you act and seeking input from the ranks will act as a powerful way for you start gaining trust.
Focus less on you and more on them
The first and most often missed step for new leaders is that it is no longer about you. However, many people enter a leadership role and forget that they can’t be the center of attention any more. Regardless of your title or current role you can start practicing this behavior. The focus absolutely needs to be on those that support you including recognition and building them up publicly through praise. When things are going well, recognize that it was them, however, when things go wrong you shoulder the accountability for whatever broke down. This will help with the next item.
When you focus more on your team and less on yourself, you demonstrate through your actions that they matter which in turn will help you establish trust with them. Another positive side effect of this is that they will want to work harder for you.
There is no shortage of flashy, attention craving people. People who crave the attention and display a high level self-importance cannot easily focus less on themselves and more on the people they serve. The end result of this is that they are not building people up and when they do it is usually more through personality than through tangible merit.
Practicing humility, spreading the credit for positive wins and taking accountability for loses demonstrate that you care about those you lead. This demonstration goes a long way in building trust, inspiring them to work harder and instilling positive behaviors in them so that someday they can be a great leader.
So how to you practice humility? Here are a few simple steps that you can use to help you become more a more humble leader.
- View others higher than you view yourself
- Offer to go last when you could go first
- Hone your listening skills
- Make sacrifices for others
- Never boast about your accomplishments, allow others to do that for you
- Give credit to others even when you deserve the credit
- Show everyone you interact with respect
These are merely a drop in the hat of ways to show humility. They can get you started, and hopefully you are already well versed in one or more of them.
These three behaviors will help you connect quickly to your team, identify areas for improvement, expand on things that go well and most importantly show your employees that they matter and can trust you. If you are able to do these consistently and correctly you will inspire your staff to work harder to accomplish your objectives.
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