Five steps to build trust in your team

Do your employees trust you? One international leadership expert goes over how to answer this with a resounding yes.

“Trust in the workplace is defined as the ability to rely upon others to be truthful, to do as they say and to follow established rules, procedures and custom and practice.”
This quote by world-renowned organisational psychologist Elliot Jacques is a simple but clear definition of trust that applies specifically to HR, said Peter Mills.
As an HR management and leadership expert with 30 years of experience, Mills knows a lot about trust in the workplace.
“To lead in a trust-inducing manner, managers need to continually demonstrate honesty, integrity and respect for others. These behaviours are essential for building trust, the trust required to build strong manager-employee working relationships.”
However, he added, this is not sufficient to properly create high levels of trust in the workforce. To achieve this goal, managers should also focus on the following:
1) Demonstrate capability in their role
Competence is always required to build trust, Mills said. If a manager lacks the ability, leadership can unconsciously pass to another member of the team causing confusion amongst workers about who the actual leader is.
“This is not good for the manager or team members. Team members need to be able to respect the decisions managers make. If they cannot trust the decisions, inappropriate behaviours develop.”
Demonstrated capability goes beyond hard skills, Mills said, adding that managers should also have excellent people skills and be able to handle day-to-day issues such as dealing with employee complaints.
2) Ensure the workplace nurtures productivity
“Part of the role of a manager is to build and lead an effective team, so that each member is fully committed to, and capable of, moving in the direction set,” he said.
This can be done by focusing on the performance management sequence which moves through the following steps:

  1. Role design
  2. Selection for the role
  3. Induction
  4. Assigning & assessing tasks
  5. Rewarding team members
  6. Developing them in their roles.

“Each part of the sequence aims to have roles filled with capable people, and is an opportunity to apply leadership and build trust.”
3) Provide a safe work environment
In addition to satisfying a manager’s moral and legal obligations, building a safe workplace also helps nurture trust with employees, Mills said.
“This includes providing not only a safe physical environment but also an environment free from bullying and harassment.”
4) Consistently and fairly apply work processes
The application of workplace systems should always be consistent, he added. For instance, a manager who fails to respond to a policy breach will widen boundaries with what workers perceive they can do – which will ultimately affect performance.
“If the manager applies consequences to some team members and not to others, questions of favouritism or victimisation will arise. This undermines trust.”
5) Continually engage your team
Finally, managers should keep all workers constantly engaged by ensuring they are informed of what is going on and offered opportunities to be involved, Mills said.
“This must be a genuine two-way process that does not merely take into account the input of team members but deliberately involves and engages them as a means of building trust and participation and ensuring an optimum outcome.”
However, he warned, this does not mean the team is a democracy. Instead, while managers should gain inputs from workers, they should still make the final decision especially since they will ultimately be held accountable.


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