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6 strategies for building trust when you’re in a new leadership role

Posted by Tasnim Ahmed

February 28, 2022    |     4-minute read (710 words)

Stepping into a new leadership position comes with its own pros and cons. You may be excitedly taking the reins in a role that you’ve long aspired for, but how you navigate the transition will have a major effect on your career. You need a strategy to succeed not only with your bosses but also with the direct reports on your team. 

While effective leadership requires a range of skills, trust is the glue that binds them all. The onus is on you as a leader to foster trust and keep it high. We’ve compiled six vital steps new leaders can follow to grow and maintain trust with their teams.

First impressions count

First impressions tend to be the last impression people hold in their heads. Whether you come in with all guns blazing upon first interaction or act like a wet blanket, people will persistently remember you as such. 

The key is to make a good first impression that sets the tone of your manager-employee relationship going forward. Upon making your first introduction, avoid blowing your own trumpet (nobody likes a pompous bragger) and instead aim to be matter of fact. The goal is to be friendly while conveying an air of command that people will respect. 

Find common goals

People tend to trust others who strive for the same things as they do. Find shared goals with individuals on the team, such as the desire to deliver excellent customer service and further the company’s mission. Demonstrate that you are aligned with their goals by showing how you will help achieve them. This conveys that you are a team player and a leader with a human face, which is conducive to more discussion and less conflict. 

Respect status quo 

When you take a new leadership role, avoid immediately changing the status quo of the team, unless it is a dire emergency and you have prior knowledge of the relevant facts. Handovers should be as seamless as possible with no sudden changes as that can erode trust by making people feel like they have no control. 

You as a leader should also be the first person to show trust through your willingness to delegate tasks to team members, even for the first time. It takes a certain amount of risk, but it is necessary to forge an enduring bond.

Listen, and be consistent

When you are a new leader, try not to form opinions without talking and listening to everyone first. Conducting one-on-one sessions with team members lets people open up, and it is important that you actively listen during these meetings to glean their insights and trust. When communicating with team members, maintain a single line of thought and be very clear and consistent in your words and actions. This ensures that people begin trusting you as a person of integrity rather than someone who lacks conviction.

The safety net with a win

All changes come with a sense of trepidation and uncertainty. It is your responsibility as a leader to ensure that your team believes you represent a safety net. Team members that feel safe demonstrate higher productivity and loyalty — after all, nobody likes to work in a place that is mired in uncertainty. To keep morale up, orchestrate a few easily achievable wins early in your tenure. This will not only lighten the mood, but it will also make people more willing to listen to you and boost their trust by showing you’re on their side.

Don’t bad mouth staff, and work hard

Do not under any circumstance speak poorly of your predecessor or any colleague in front of your new team. This can have the effect of making them perceive you in the same disparaging light. Gossip in the workplace, especially early in the timeline of a new manager, can erode authority and obliterate the trust that is so sorely needed for any team to function effectively. 

Instead, lead by example through your actions. Show, don’t tell, the team you are a team player willing to share responsibility for the work. During the early part of your tenure, you might want to go the extra mile in terms of working hard, to demonstrate your commitment to the team’s success.

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