“This is the way it has to be. End of discussion.”
A common mistake that new team leaders make is to use an autocratic leadership style – to look strong and in control.
Rather than build trust, it destroys it.
This makes the team leader come across more machine than human.
If people see you as a machine, they won’t be compelled to help you when you need them – machines don’t have real needs.
Furthermore, machines make transactions, not connections.
No trust required.
However, people need trust but building it takes time…
Furthermore, it’s hard to build trust in a zero-trust world.
Connection Facilitates Trust
More than ever, it’s critical for both new and experienced leaders to recognize that before you can lead or collaborate with someone, you have to connect with them first.
One thing is crystal clear: Connection leads to trust.
How do you feel about taking orders from someone you don’t really know or trust?
Without connection, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no relationship. No relationship, no influence.
According to recent research by HBR and others, relationships have the biggest impact on how much people trust their leaders.
If you’ve got older or cynical members in your team, building trust is even harder
Connect First, Lead Second
Using Dan Pink’s playful Pixar Pitch, here’s a critical situation I experienced a few years ago with a young team lead. Let’s call him Dave.
Once upon a time, there was an ambitious young project manager called Dave who was tasked to create a global sales tool (to be rolled out across entire organization).
Every day, Dave pushed his team to keep unrealistic deadlines.
One day, worried they were falling too far behind, Dave escalated the project status to “critical” thus involving upper management.
Because of that, the trust between Dave and the team was destroyed.
Because of that, the conflict grew and the motivation to move forward shrunk to zero.
Until finally, Dave and his team managed to successfully roll out a pilot in a few countries but were completely “stuck” … and the big roll-out was still ahead of them.
Without a doubt, building trusting relationships is time-consuming.
However, if Dave had taken more time to connect with team members before the hard work began, the trust-damaging incident could have been avoided.
Trust between team members can make the difference between success or failure.
When you have a trusting relationship with someone, he or she will go the extra mile for you when you need them to.
The next time you are frustrated by that time-consuming exchange, think about Dave and the unnecessary escalation.
Connect From The Start
Here are 3 simple and human ways to help connect with your people from the start:
1. Get to know your team members personally and let them get to know you.
This strategy creates common ground, mutual sympathy, and a solid foundation for a trusting relationship.
You: “What was the best thing about your holiday on Corsica?”
Report: “I really liked the diversity of the island – mountains, forests and tropical beaches”.
You: “That sounds quite diverse. How did you get around the island?”
Report: “We rented a car and drove around the island, stopping at attractive beaches and other sites. It’s also a nice mix of Italy and France – food, culture, language.”
You: “My wife and I have always wanted to visit Corsica. We both love visiting Italy and France. Can I come to you for some tips before we go?”
Report: “Sure, please do.”
PRO TIP: Give, don’t just take – personal info helps them get to know the real you.
2. Seek to understand their goals and aspirations, not just their strengths and weaknesses.
This strategy shows that you’re interested in their development (beyond what they can do for you right now). It also creates ownership.
You: “How would you assess your public speaking ability?”
Report: “I think I could improve this skill…actually, I’ve been wanting to improve this…”
You: “OK, I also see this as a an area you could improve. How might you develop your skills in this area?”
Report: “Actually, there’s an interesting workshop I’ve been looking at…”
You: “What would be realistic option to develop this skill right now? How can I support?”
PRO TIP: Explore options together and co-create a development plan. They’ll tell you want they need, not the other way around (key to ownership).
3. Collaborate like they are partners, not followers.
If people feel like a partner, they’ll be motivated to help you.
You: “I know you have experience in this area, I could really use your input on this. Could you brief me on an effective course of action here?”
Report: “Sure, I’d be happy to. And you know what else I…”
PRO TIP: Look for any opportunity to consult them and make decisions together – acknowledge their expertise to spark their interest!
Go Slow To Go Fast
As illustrated in these 3 strategies, you have to start slow if you want to go fast.
It takes time to build genuine trust. But once you have it, everything else falls into place. Rule of thumb: Connect first, lead second.
Here are 3 final tips you can put into practice right away:
· Share personal information to show your human side, including your challenges, fears, etc.
· Always offer your support, even if only in the form of brainstorming.
· Ask for their help, don’t order (even if you have the direct authority).
This will improve the quality of your relationships and the quality of your collaboration, as a result.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. To learn more about how to build trust and connection in your team, book a FREE call with me.
*This article originally appeared in BRAINZ Magazine in March 2022.