Trust is Key: What Successful Leaders Do to Build Trust with Their Teams

Have you ever worked for a leader or organization you didn’t trust? I have. It’s not fun.

You’re constantly worried about your position in the organization. You wonder if your boss or owner will stab you in the back, leaving you without a job. You may even question your sanity because your boss has made you doubt yourself.

I’ve had that happen. It was all due to a lack of trust.

I don’t want that to happen to you… or the people you lead.

An organization that builds trust is an unstoppable force. The leader rallies behind the people. The people rally behind the leader.

Both know they have each other’s backs and can be trusted. It’s a magical situation.

It is not a situation that is easily created. You will have to work on building trust with your teams.

What Successful Leaders Do to Build Trust with Their Teams

There are plenty of leaders who are doing this well. They know how to build trust with their teams. They’ve also shared it with the world. They’ve let the cat out of the bag, so to speak.

We will look at three different leaders and how they built trust in their organizations. What they did, you can do as well.

Mary Barra has been the CEO of General Motors since 2014. In 2016, Barra was voted to be Chair of the GM Board of Directors. Her advancements have been significant. But that’s not what sets her apart as a leader.

Barra does something well. She knows how to build trust with her teams. What has she done to do this?

  • She communicates openly: She shares updates with her employees, stockholders, and the public about the company. Barra doesn’t shy away from sharing company progress, goals, and challenges. She invites dialogue as well.
  • She holds herself accountable: It’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t have accountability. Barra knows that she is responsible for her actions and decisions. She allows people to call her out when she does something out of alignment with the organization.
  • She manages crises: In 2014, General Motors faced a crisis with ignition switches failing. The organization ordered a recall of the parts. She was open with the organization and the public in regard to what was happening. She didn’t hide the fact; she embraced it through communication and accountability.

Another business leader that has built trust within his organization is Satya Nadella. He is the CEO of Microsoft. He came on at a challenging time when Microsoft made many missteps. His actions rebuilt the trust that was lost.

  • Nadella has an empathetic leadership style: He understands that meeting the needs of customers and employees is critically important. Without either one of these, you don’t have a viable organization, so Nadella has worked on creating an environment that is empathetic and inclusive.
  • Collaboration is essential: Nadella saw that cross-functional collaboration wasn’t happening regularly. He began to encourage employees to share what they’re working on and their ideas with those outside their departments. This created a sense of trust between coworkers.
  • He focused on the customer: When your organization is struggling because the customer isn’t being served, it will sever the trust you have with your employees. Nadella began to focus on customers in the product development cycles of the organization. This built trust among employees and customers.

The last leader we will look at is Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller. Chapman leads a business with over 12,000 team members. Building trust here is critical to their success. But what did Bob do?

  • Seeing the importance of people: Chapman focused on people-centered leadership. He knew his employees were important, and he made a point of letting them know. Through personal and professional development programs to a supportive culture, Chapman focused on the people in the organization.
  • Serving people: Chapman knew servant leadership was a key piece in building trust. So, he went about serving those in his organization. He has emphasized the needs of his people and empowered them to make decisions.
  • Shared values: Core values are important, but only when lived out by the organization. Chapman created a set of core values to guide the organization and that the organization can follow through with. People working for Chapman and Barry-Wehmiller see it as a place where they can live out their values and beliefs.

How You Can Build Trust With Your Team

What Chapman, Nadella, and Barra do can be transferred to you and your organization. You can follow their lead and build trust.

You will have to make it your own, though.

Find ways to find shared values between your organization and the people there, focus on the value and importance of the people you lead, collaborate and encourage collaboration between departments, be empathetic, communicate openly, and when a crisis arises, manage it well.

When you do these things and others, you will build trust.

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