Management essentials: three ways for managers to build trust

If you want to succeed as a manager, you need to build relationships of trust with your team.

If they don’t trust you, nothing else matters: nothing you do will land right, the extra-mile won’t be run, the box won’t get thought outside of, no one will be saluting what you run up the flagpole … in short, creativity and motivation will drag sluggishly along the floor no matter how much cake you bring in on a Friday.

In fact, if our untrustworthy manager brought in cake on a Friday, what would you think?

You’d probably assume some sneaky ulterior motive, that they were trying to ingratiate themselves or bribe you with superficial treats … although obviously you’d still eat the cake, just to be polite.

If you’ve ever had a manager you didn’t trust, you won’t need much persuading on this point.

Saying you need trust in the team will seem like a statement of the blindingly obvious – and I’d agree with you, so imagine my surprise when someone once interrupted me to say:

We don’t have the luxury of building trusting relationships, we need people to get on with it and deliver

Someone on a management training course once (yes, seriously)

Hands up who wants to work for this person?

Thought not.

So, I am disappointed I need to do this, but I will start with three reasons why building trust is worthwhile, before going on to share three things you need to do to build trust in your teams.

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YouPlus: authentic(ish) leadership

Leaders are constantly being told about the importance of being authentic, and then being taught lists of key things that great leaders do.

They’re told to have vision, to lead “tribes”, or “be up to something”, and be passionate about what they want to achieve, to engage with people authentically and at the same time to apply prescriptive models and theories to inspire people and empower them to deliver results.

For all the breathy appeals to individual authenticity, training is often based on leadership techniques that mean asking leaders to behave in an inauthentic way.

When I train people on these skills and behaviours, I am often challenged about this tension between being authentic and true to oneself on the one hand, and using behavioural models and leadership skills on the other.

How can I be me, yet behave in a way that is not me?

Leadership Venn

Many answers to this question feel wishy-washy and undermine the inspiring message of developing the self, or they let aspiring leaders off the hook, letting them get away with not developing skills that are unnatural to their personality type.

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Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a fast-paced high-energy onslaught of short choppy chapters that shout the argument that we are all members of tribes – groups of like-minded passionate people – and that tribes are where the energy and enthusiasm is.

Godin uses this concept as the basis for a discussion on game-changing leadership. It’s about how “heretics” can passionately and determinedly fight for what they believe in, and that if they are right, people will follow them. The point is not to seek people to lead, but to seek a disruptive idea and make it happen; the people will follow.

Tribes-Seth-Godin-e1465119097628

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