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  • Writer's pictureMandy Diamond

4 Steps to Building Trust with your Followers

When I am not working, I am a mum to two highly energetic and curious kids under the age of 5. I find that, on a daily basis, I am rediscovering the world through their eyes. They see things in such a matter-of-fact way and it has made me realize two things:

1) “Grown-Ups” over complicate very simple principles; and

2) “Grown-Ups” tend to be fairly habitual and unconscious when utilizing these simple principles in decision-making and their perception of the world around them.

Sounds dramatic? Let me give you an example:

When my son was about 16 months old I was feeding him some dinner. After a few quick blows to cool it down he was grabbing my hand and guiding the fork straight into his mouth. Of course, as suspected, it was still too hot and the little man spat it straight out, looking at me with complete and utter horror. It didn’t matter what I did for the remainder of that meal, he would not accept a morsel of food from me…I would put some in my mouth and show him it wasn’t hot. I put the plate in the freezer for 5 minutes. I forced him to hold it in his hands and feel for himself. All of my efforts were futile. The trust between us had been broken!

This may seem like a silly common story but it reaffirmed for me that trust, no matter how solid the relationship is, can be destroyed in seconds. Obviously this isn’t a ground-breaking revelation. I am sure many of you were aware of this and didn’t need a 16 month old refusing his food to figure this out. However it really got me thinking about the issue of trust in organisations and amongst teams. Without doubt, trust is essential amongst teams in order to be productive and high performing. In fact a lack of trust in the workplace can be detrimental to the bottom line. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M. R. Covey, says there is a hidden "tax" on every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision when trust is low in a workplace. This in turn brings speed down and sends costs up.

Research shows that only 49% of employees trust senior management, and only 28% believe CEOs are a credible source of information.[1] So what can you do to build and retain trust?

1. Be Authentic

Nobody is perfect and no one likes anybody who pretends that they are! The quickest way to build trust with anyone is to make yourself vulnerable. Own your weaknesses and failures. Be honest and act with integrity and consistency.

2. Leverage Motivators

Get to know your people. What motivates and speaks to one person may not mean anything to someone else. We all have different subsets of values that drive our decision-making. If you can figure out your followers’ driving values, through meaningful conversations and observation, you will be able to reward them accordingly. They will feel understood and valued and as a result will feel more connected to the team and to you as a leader.

3. Always Give and Request Open and Honest Feedback

Feedback is the most underrated management tool. In order for feedback to be constructive, the recipient has to be able to understand it, acknowledge it and do something about it. To create a culture of feedback in your team, as with all cultures, it starts with you. You are responsible for initiating it and setting the tone. This is done in two ways. Give constructive feedback as soon as it is required and seek feedback consistently.

4. Strengthen Rapport

Be present for your Followers. Acknowledge their opinions and thoughts. Actively listen for what is not being said. If you can practice these 3 things you will attain emotional insight into what your Followers need. Feeling understood and heard creates a sense of security and safety. This ultimately creates a space, which will encourage open discussion and healthy debate.

So the next time you are around a little person, under the age of 5, stop and listen to what they have to say. See the world through their eyes, because it can be an enlightening experience if you allow it to be!


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