10 Ways A New Leader Can Establish Trust
One of the most terrifying instances in leadership is coming aboard a new team as an outsider.
And not just for the leader, but for the team that inherits you as well.
Whether from another department or another company, it’s those first critical weeks that will set the stage for how effective you will become as their leader.
If you start off too strong, you may never recover from being branded a taskmaster. People may avoid getting close to you and even discussing work matters for fear you may make unfavorable judgments on them or their work load.
Start off too easy, and people will like you but may never take you seriously enough to respect your leadership influence and direction.
In trying to strike the best balance and establish an effective influence, consider incorporating the following in those early days:
- Connect with each and every person on the team. People will only trust those that go out of their way to know them. Bridge the anxiety gap and get to know your folks skills, talent, dreams … their whole selves.
- Let everyone know what your expectations are – for them and yourself. Being an “open-book” will let everyone know that you don’t have a hidden agenda. Whether you’re hired to hit the financials, get performance moving, or to “clean house”, let the team know and offer them a way to be part of the solution. You’ll engender buy-in and this can ease some of the load off of you.
- Give them options if they don’t agree to your style or decisions. Let them know it’s OK to disagree, and to do so constructively. Show the team that you’re accountable to both your boss AND them. Tell them you are prone to make mistakes – as they are – and together you all can fix anything and achieve the mission at hand.
- Enforce the rules, but give reasons why. “Because I said so” never works. Rules and policies are in place, and yes, it’s your job to enforce them. But by explaining the rules (of which many people may NOT be aware of) and the reasons they are there (such as to prevent theft, help productivity, be a tool for fairness), your people will see the bigger picture and better understand the mechanisms to running the organization
- Let mistakes be forgivable. People are naturally cautious, and scared too sometimes, and will be more prone to mistakes. Being forgiving (unless a willful egregious error is made) and turning it into a “teachable moment” will help calm fears and telegraph everyone that you care about their learning and development more than perfection. And they’ll be more willing to become perfect because they won’t WANT to let you down, instead of being fearful about letting you down.
- Preach core values and mission. It all comes down to these essentials. Hold your first staff meeting around these, as well as an icebreaker on #1 as well. Play, rewind, and repeat the values constantly, until it becomes the DNA of the team. Having every conscious and unconscious move be aligned to the core values will make the team so much more effective and cohesive in their mission.
- Give each person value and an opportunity to contribute. If you set people up to win and use their talents in ways that they have never contributed before, you’re saying to them, and the entire team, how valuable they are. Give them projects that will strecth and grow them, and they will appreciate your instilling hope in them.
- Make all resources available to everyone. Whether it’s a budget need for working equipment, the proper supplies to do their job, training, classes, or just straight-up honest communication, give your team everything they need to do their jobs and they will trust that you have their best interests of their jobs close to heart.
- Be honest about change. The famous last words of every failed leader “I’m not here to make changes.” Nothing is further from the truth. Every new leader is there to make changes, that’s their job. Be upfront about it. Tell people that you’re going to make changes, and let them know what your considering, and what you’re not sure of yet. They will respect your honesty and whether they like it or not, will either stay with you throughout or at least leave on amicable terms.
- Give credit to your team, take blame on yourself. When the hiccups occur, take the bullet for your team. When they see you say that you could have prepared them better or that you made an error in judgment, they’ll know you’re on their side. But when the favorable results come in, pass the credit on. Tell others “Hey, I’ve got great people,” or “Yes, (Jessica) really displayed some great leadership there.” Build your people up and watch them work harder to keep that expectation you have of them grow.
Start off using a good combination of your hard and soft leadership skills, combined with empathy, urgency, common sense, and compassion. Constant, and transparent, communication to each and every person will result in some marvelous transformations in your teams.
Be patient, be praising, and be promoting them and the company.