How to Increase Trust in Leadership According to Experts

Research shows the trust in leadership is significantly correlated with team performance. 

According to Harvard researcher, Frances Frei, three factors determine if someone will trust you: 

  • They perceive you as being authentic
  • They believe that you are logical 
  • They think you have empathy for them

To earn your team’s trust, you must always demonstrate those three factors. Here’s how:

Build Trust by Demonstrating Authenticity in Everything You Do

Authenticity is critical to trust because it’s a clear signal that you’re honest, reliable, and won’t dramatically shift your personality based on circumstances. Here are four ways to demonstrate authenticity:

1) Know Your Values and Be Open About Them

Your values play an influential role in your actions. Whether you choose to allow, your organization’s core values drive your decisions, or your personal beliefs guide you, be transparent about what they are.

Here at Quickskill, we have five core values that our leaders live by:

1) Commitment: The key to collective success is our fierce dedication to finish what we start

2) Ownership: We are all responsible for our member’s success

3) Integrity: Do the right thing even when no one is looking

4) Learning: Have a continuous thirst to grow our skills and knowledge

5) Service: Our service is the product of our core values (COIL). We never forget that we exist to improve the lives of our members and our teammates.

We explain these values to all candidates before hire and again in the training process, so our employees understand the criteria our managers use to evaluate them.

Remember: being transparent about your values increases trust in leadership by giving your team a reliable picture of who you are.

2) Practice Mindfulness

Whether you choose to meditate, go on contemplative walks, spend time working in flow states or opt for a different method, a study of more than 800 people found that practicing some form of mindfulness is the key to living a meaningful, authentic life.

Mindfulness helps you be a more trustworthy leader by giving you dedicated time to focus on your values so that you can incorporate them into your daily actions.

3) Be Vulnerable with Your Team

Numerous studies have found that vulnerability is vital to trust. Showing our weaknesses is one of the scariest yet honest actions we can take as human beings. When a leader opens up about their battles, it shows their team they’re fallible humans too and that helps them trust that you will not ridicule them for struggling.

Whenever you encounter a significant challenge, be transparent about it with your team and ask for their support. One study found that when someone in a group shows vulnerability and is supported by other members, it triggers a positive feedback positive loop. Moving forward, individuals are up to 50% more cooperative than individuals take an individualistic approach to success.

4) Boost Team Trust By Empowering Employee Authenticity

As a leader, you must not only demonstrate authenticity but, you must create a culture that empowers everyone to be their authentic selves.

Some employees will show the full force of their polarizing personalities. Others, will embrace their quiet natures and socialize less, while many people will spend more time bonding with only the people they genuinely enjoy being around. You will go from having a stable, but stifling, work environment to a less predictable one full of authentic human connections and disconnections.

From a management perspective, this can be scary. However, it is well worth the occasional personal conflicts that will arise. When everyone on your team comes to work as their authentic selves, there is more trust all around which leads to increased productivity and performance.

An added benefit is research shows that employees who are empowered to be authentic are far more creative and engaged than those who are forced to conform to a rigid organizational culture. Creativity requires taking risks, and most employees will only do that when they trust that others will not ridicule them for their ideas. 

Prove You Have a Logical Frame of Mind

Demonstrating logic is critical to building trust in leadership because, instead of trying to convince people to listen to leaders on blind faith, you’re proving that leaders deserve to be trusted. This is especially important for high-performing teams who are experts at what they do and are resistant towards leaders who they perceive as lacking competence.

There are three key ways to prove you have a logical frame of mind:
1) Ensure all your decisions are evidence-backed. 

By removing subjectivity, you can fight your employees’ skepticism.
2) Be fully transparent about all your actions.

 The more information you share with employees, the better. Transparency shows you have nothing to hide and gives employees the opportunity to evaluate the logic of your decision – both of which foster trust.
3) Never display anger in front of your team.

As a leader, occasionally feeling frustrated at work is inevitable. However, it can make you appear emotional at best and unhinged at worst. Wait to address issues until you can do so with a calm, objective approach.

If you follow those steps, you can build trust in leadership by proving to your team that they have no reason to doubt you or their other leaders. 

Display Empathy in Every Interaction

Though displaying empathy may seem contradictory to maintaining a logical presence, if incorporated into a leadership style correctly, it’s the perfect complement. Concerning building trust in leadership, logic means that objective evidence drives all actions. There are logical reasons to show empathy. In addition to being critical for trust, it increases employee loyalty, boosts engagement, and generally creates a more positive work environment.

Here are some ways to show empathy toward your team:

  • Ask your employees how they’re doing and expect an honest answer. If they reply with the standard “I’m doing well” but you can see the stress on their face, ask again and let them know you are there to support them.
  • If someone makes a mistake on their first time doing a task, tell them it’s okay and offer constructive criticism. If you were in their shoes, you’d want mercy on a project you weren’t 100% sure how to do.
  • Celebrate employee lives outside of work. If someone gets married, moves, has a baby, wins an outside competition or has another personal moment of victory, congratulate them.
  • Pay attention to employee stress levels and take actions to lighten the mood in your office. If your team is stressing out trying to meet a challenging deadline, take a few moments to commend their hard work, order pizza when they’re staying late, and take other steps to show empathy.
  • Support employees through tragedies. If someone’s loved one is seriously injured or passes away, express genuine concern for them and, if possible, give them a bit of slack during this busy time.

Above all else, pay attention to your team’s emotions and acknowledge them. Doing this will go a long way in showing them that you genuinely care and thus are worthy of trust.

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