Over the last 4 weeks I have been sharing my experiences taking over new teams and my insights based on times when I did it well and when I did it poorly.  I learned new things each time and believe what I am sharing can help anyone stepping in to lead a new team.  The 5 Steps for New Leaders on New Teams are:

  1. Communicate With The Previous Leader
  2. Meet Face to Face With The Influence Leaders
  3. Bring The Team Together Physically 
  4. Build Trust With The Team
  5. Bring The Team Together Culturally

Steps 1-3 are all building towards what I see to be the two most important attributes of successful teams:  Trust and Culture.

Step 4: Trust

Step 4:  Build Trust With The Team

If a team does not trust it’s leader, then that team is doomed to being mediocre at best.  I don’t know of a single leader who strives for mediocrity.  To lead well and have a high functioning team, I must build trust.

Building trust with my team begins with the first conversation I have with them.  There are three parts to the discussion that I believe set us up for a relationship built on trust.

I Give Away My Trust

“You do not have to earn my trust.  You have it already.  I am giving it to you freely.” 

This statement is usually met with either skepticism or shock.  Through the years I realized that those reactions are due to the fact most people never felt like their leaders trusted them.

Some leaders reading this may feel nervous now.  “Don’t I think someone will take advantage of that trust?”  They may.  But, I find that if you treat people as trustworthy, they tend to be trustworthy.  90% of the time I found that to be the case.

Have I been burned by that 10%?  Yes.  But I don’t focus on being burned 1 out of 10 times.  I see it as being right 9 out of 10 times!  Who wouldn’t like those odds?

The 9 people who are trustworthy will be motivated and empowered because of the trust I give them.  That impacts job satisfaction, productivity and retention.

I Simplify My Job Description

“I will do everything I can so you are as successful as you want to be.”

I make it very clear that I am there to help them achieve their goals.  I know if I do a good job of that, then our team goals and my goals as a leader will be met.

Too many people feel that their organization sees them as tools to accomplish the financial objectives of the organization.  Terms like Human Resources and Human Capital lump people into the same category as raw materials or money.

Again, I sense some leaders thinking I am getting to soft and touchy feely with my leadership philosophies.  If you are thinking that, you are missing the point.  No one who worked with me would ever claim I was soft or touchy feely.

The point is people must know that as a leader I am putting them before me.  That means I will do anything needed to help them grow and reach their goals.  That means a pat on the back or a kick in the pants.  If people know that they are getting that kick for their own good and not for mine, they are more likely to respond well and change their habits.

The only way that will happen is if they trust me, and they trust my motives.

I Speak With Clarity And Candor

“If you ever find yourself trying to read me, STOP.  Ask a clarifying question.  I am not intentionally trying to be vague.  I am probably just being a crappy communicator at that moment.”

It amazed me through the years that as I became more direct and succinct in my coaching, how the level of trust increased.  In fact, I’ve had people who thanked me for being the first boss to actually tell them clearly what weakness they had.

I think we have all been on a team where people spent a lot of time trying to decipher what the boss was thinking or interpret the boss’s last comment.  Imagine being on that same team if that boss was always clear and candid with his comments.  Now  that’s a different picture isn’t it?

That is the environment I strive for on my teams.  The feedback I get is that my straight-forward style is refreshing.  I am trusted because people never have to guess where they stand with me.

When I have done a good job of speaking with clarity and candor with my team, they spend their time solving problems caused by external forces, not problems caused by trust issues as a result of my vague or incomplete communications.

The Bottom Line:

If I make people feel trusted they tend to act trustworthy.  If people know I am trying to do what is best for them, they tend to trust me.  And, if I speak in away that does not need interpretation, people believe they know where they stand.

Imagine working on a team where:

  • You knew you were trusted.   
  • You believed the boss was looking out for your best interests.
  • You always knew where you stood with your leadership. 

That is the type of environment that produces high performing teams.

The final step is to build a common culture on the team.  With trust and a strong culture, I know my team will be the team to beat in any arena we work in.


What’s the most effective thing a leader can do to build trust with you?