How To Build Leadership Team Trust

How To Build Leadership Team Trust
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Do Your Leaders Know How to Build Leadership Team Trust?
We consider trust as the foundation of all healthy relationships – both personal and professional. Within a team, trust sets the stage for higher performance. In a nut shell, you will know you have been able to build leadership team trust when team members feel psychologically safe to communicate openly and honestly, and comfortable enough to take reasonable risks to learn and grow. Without team trust, individuals will never reach their full potential.

This holds doubly true for leadership teams. Why?  Because leaders set the tone, model the behavior, and establish the trust and organizational culture required to successfully execute the corporate strategy in a way that makes sense to the people AND the business.

The ability to build trust on a leadership team sets the foundation for a high trust work culture.  And a high trust work culture sets the stage for higher employee engagement, performance, and retention.  When compared to lower trust companies, the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies found that employees in high-trust companies are:

    • 50% more productive
    • 40% more likely to stay longer
    • 76% more engaged
    • 74% less stressed

Leadership Teams With Low Levels of Trust
Imagine a leadership team without trust. There are many, and they can lead to company-wide dysfunction. Without high levels of leadership team trust, workplace politics reign; suspicion and distrust of others’ motives lead to turf wars over limited resources. Leaders on low trust teams are focused on pursuing their own success and goals in silos rather than pulling together for the common good.

Leadership Teams with High Levels of Trust

What does a team with high levels of trust look like? There is mutual respect. Discussions are open and candid. Instead of unhealthy competition, there is an explicit sense of collaboration. The organizational goals are clear, agreed-upon, and all leaders are pulling in the same direction toward those goals.

How To Build Leadership Team Trust
Which team do you identify with?  Sure, no team is 100% one way or the other. But if you agree that leadership team trust is a worth striving for, here are ways to build that trust:

  • Define Leadership Team Trust
    Make “trust” the subject of discussion at a major meeting or retreat. What is it and why does it matter? The goal is to reach a common understanding of what trust is. As a start, the Oxford Dictionary says that trust is a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone.”

    Leadership simulation assessment data tells us that most leaders define trust as the right combination of character to do the right thing, enough motivation to have each other’s back, and ample competence to succeed in their role. Does your leadership team have enough character, motivation, and competence?

  • Assess the Current Level of Trust on the Leadership Team
    Conduct an audit on the level of trust on the leadership team as a whole and how often leaders believe they behave in a trusting way. Feedback from others should also be sought to test self-perceptions against the way others see you.
  • Extend Trust to Other Leaders
    Now it’s time to take some risk, display some vulnerability, and extend trust to leader team members. This may be difficult for some who are used to operating in their own silo and prefer not to depend on others. But how else are you going to find out who you can trust?

    Also, extending trust to others releases a hormone in our brains that stimulates them to give and receive trust in a continuous loop. Psychologically, the more leadership trust is granted, the more leadership trust is returned.

The Bottom Line
Trust in an organization starts at the top and cascades throughout the organization. Does your leadership team demonstrate the kind of trust you want practiced on other teams? If not, you’re handicapping organization performance results and undermining employee engagement.

To learn more about building trust, download 29 Ways to Build and Maintain Trust as a Leader

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