Great leadership is reflected by the trust and confidence your team has in you. If they trust you they will go through hell and high water for you. Trust and confidence is built on good relationships, trustworthiness and good ethics. Creating a climate of understanding and trust encompasses an environment where people feel they are safe to voice their opinions.
Building a culture of trust and openness whereby people are comfortable to speak up. It can be encouraged by any leader who can be open and honest with the people they lead. By being open you will encourage others to be themselves and know what they really think, feel and believe.
Building a culture of understanding and trust doesn’t mean you won’t face issues, conflicts and disagreements. What it does mean is that these are brought into the open and dealt with rather than creating a team frustration.
Where do we begin in engaging people to build these relationships, and in creating a climate of understanding and trust?
Lead with questions, not answers
Great leaders use questions to gain better understanding. They don’t use questions as a form of manipulation or finding ways to blame other people. Great leaders use informal gatherings where they can meet with the people they lead on a frequent basis without any scripts, agenda or set of actions to discuss. Questions like
- “Can you tell me more about that?”
- “Can you help me understand?”
These questions come from your intent to understand situations better and allow people to share their own perspective by finding solutions together.
Engage in a dialogue and a healthy debate
Part of cultivating a culture of understanding and trust is to encourage more of a two-way communication around your team. Leadership is about those relationships we nurture through meaningful dialogue that energized people to contribute instead of pulling back.
Get to know your team; the easiest way is to join them at lunch or on their breaks. Be visible and interested. It’s not just about listening; it’s about the ability to connect and value important conversations.
- Demonstrate you are genuinely keen to hear what your team has to say.
- Be open and show that their thoughts are valued and make a difference.
- Share your own thoughts and opinions to encourage discussion.
Many relationship difficulties are often rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations around roles and company goals. Unclear expectations will lead to misunderstanding, disappointment and withdrawals of trust. The leader must make a real investment of time and effort up front, which will save great amounts of time and effort in the long run. When expectations are not clear and shared, mistrust becomes compounded, turning into personality clashes and communication failures.
Apologize for mistakes
A culture of environment of understanding and trust is not about perfection. It’s about allowing mistakes to happen as long as people are honest about them. A great leader has the opportunity to lead by example when he or she makes mistakes.
They have the courage to be vulnerable with the people they lead. When people see their leader make mistakes and willing to admit them, they begin to notice a trustworthy leader that places the interest of the team above his own his or her personal interests.