A few weeks ago we discussed the principles of building a high-performance team which involved crafting and communicating an effective mission, shaping a goal driven culture and hiring the right people. Another vital ingredient to an effective young leader of a high-performance team is the ability to build and maintain a trusting environment for your team and other stakeholders.
Unlike working hours, dress codes and salaries, trust is something no leader can dictate. Trust can be complex, slowly built over time but also easily damaged. When your team trusts you as their leader, it increases commitment to shared goals. Communication also improves, as does the flow of ideas and has a positive impact on both creativity and productivity. Perhaps most importantly, in the hands of a trusted leader, employees are more comfortable with change and more willing to embrace a new vision.
When I caught up with start-up CEOs and entrepreneurs recently, 3 common themes emerged when it came to building trust in a high-performance team. This is what they were:
1. Be transparent and consistent
One of the first points made was that high-performance teams require openness and transparency. This means always delivering on promises that you make and being honest with your team on tough challenges. Young leaders being clear on expectations of their team is also something that adds to being trusted over time. Transparency is such a common theme among start-up CEOs and entrepreneurs because it builds trust by allowing your team to understand exactly where they stand and where the company is headed. They can then decide clearly if that is what they want or not.
Complimentary to the theme of knowing where team members stand is the principle of consistency. It is no good being transparent if your expectations and values fundamentally shift from day to day. Being consistent means team members feel they are able to rely on you and each other to get their job done.
2. Create a safe environment for communication
Steve Jobs famously stated that he didn’t hire smart people in order to tell them what to do. Instead, he hired them to tell him what to do. Each member of your team has a diverse range of perspectives, experiences, values and knowledge. You can capitalize on this diversity by creating an environment where your team members feel safe to speak up, bring up diverse ideas that don’t make sense at first and are free to question everything. This rule also applies to discussing failures, issues and other perceptively ‘negative’ matters. Through this you address problems before they grow into bigger ones.
For many CEOs communication is the most important factor in building trust in high-performance teams. For a young leader, this involves being open to criticism, expressing gratitude to those who speak up, preventing ridicule in both private and public conversations, as well as encouraging the devil’s advocate in order to avoid the symptoms of groupthink. Furthermore, your own communication should reflect vulnerability and is shaping the team culture.
3. Build authentic relationships
When developing a trusting high-performance team, a vital component is ensuring relationships among team members and other stakeholders are authentic and are based on real interest.
Entrepreneurs recommends doing things as a team outside of work in order to bond. Knowing each other’s life circumstances, interests, partners and other attributes not only helps understanding other people’s contexts but also develops rapport and trust. Depending on work culture, some even recommend partying together and getting drunk if it feels right. Any activity is right as long as it includes the whole team and reflects the culture you as a young leader want to shape.
With these three lessons considered, the best way forward is to take action, experiment and find your own leadership style. If you’d like to talk more about building trust as a young leader or manager, feel free to get in touch.