Maintaining trust with the team is in my opinion the foundation of leadership. So today, I’m going to share three tips on how to maintain trust day-to-day.
1. Don’t rush meetings
I get it. Everyone’s busy and there are fires to fight.
Most of us wished the meeting ended 5 minutes ago, so we can all get back to work.
However, rushing conversations creates a culture where nothing but the most urgent matters are discussed. Team members will avoid raising up concerns that are just starting to cause harm. Personal issues and frustrations are also skipped, since most wouldn’t want to bother their busy manager with it (until they’re ready to quit).
In other words, rushing conversations fails to allow people to raise emerging thoughts and problems. There is thus no opportunity to catch and resolve issues before they become big fires.
So next time there’s a meeting or a 1-on-1 chat, let’s not rush it. Let’s instead allocate a generous time slot for questions and concerns.
Managers much more famous and capable than I have said this before, so I’ll save my words on this point: Avoid speaking over people, interrupting them, or talking without listening.
In my experience, actively listening is much more powerful at effecting change than speaking at team members. If I wish to make a point, I ask questions to help the other party think through an issue together, and keep my mouth shut.
It still surprises me how powerful listening is.
3. Make time to observe
On countless occasions, I’ve heard team members complain about how leaders don’t understand their problems (I work hard to be a venting channel for people). That leaders seem clueless to their daily challenges.
In those situations, I empathize with both team members and managers. Fact is, managers are a level removed from daily challenges of their subordinates, so have a hard time understanding their problems. They lack context.
Yet it’s the manager’s job to understand their team’s problems. To represent and advocate for their needs.
In my opinion, the best way to keep tap on the team’s daily challenges without throwing ourselves back onto the front line (although that can’t hurt either, if one can afford it), is to make time everyday to observe the team’s work. Observe interactions between team members, with other teams, with customers, and ask about their challenges over lunch.
The danger in not observing the team is not becoming ignorant. It’s that our perception of the team’s challenges will bias toward the most vocal (or whiny) team members. A tiny snapshot of the team’s actual situation.
So to avoid sounding out of touch, let’s make the time to observe the team regularly.
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