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A Leader’s Guide to Building Trust

Leaders will need to prove themselves trustworthy before workers will feel comfortable enough to allow themselves to be led. The only way to establish trust is through time. The only problem is, time is something that leaders (especially young leaders, with no proven track record) feel they can't afford.

But as anxious as we may be to develop fantastic relationships with our followers and create the perfect team right away, the truth is great leader-follower relationships usually are years in the making.

Trust is difficult to gain but incredibly easy to lose. Here are four ways to speed up the trust-building process with your followers.

1. Showing Consistency.

It’s a steady trend over time. It’s repetitive actions. You make a promise, and you follow through. You make a promise, and you follow through. You make a promise, and you follow through. Every time. The same pattern. Until it is expected. Assumed. Until there is no doubt that your word is always supported by your actions.

2. Meeting Expectations.

In every relationship, there is some level of expectation. Whether realistic or not, these expectations are there. When we’re working to build trust with followers, we have to be ready to meet the anticipation of our followers. In the leader-follower relationship, each expects the other to perform their role (whether those expectations are vocalized or not) without being monitored. Where most people run into trouble, is when those expectations are assumed by one party and not the other. Open communication is vital to making sure all expectations are met.

3. Removing Uncertainty.

The enemy of trust is ambiguity. When people are unsure, it seeds fear which in turn leads to doubt. The best way to keep building a relationship of trust early on with followers is to remove their uncertainties. This means paying attention. Leaders should always be listening (and paying attention!) to conversations with followers to catch wind of any doubts. It's not enough to identify concerns; you need to address them.

4. Living Authentically.

The world is changing. Gone are the days of leaders pretending to be perfect or having all the answers. Followers prefer real to super. In fact, research shows that people are more attracted to competent leaders after they make a little blunder. In psychology, this is called the Pratfall Effect, and it just goes to show that people look for ways to connect. They’re looking for leaders who are relatable. Real. A hero they can look up to because although the leader has shown herself to be fallible, she has learned to overcome. Authentic leaders build trust.

Time is a necessary ingredient in any relationship, but with these four tricks, you'll be on the fast-track to connecting with your followers.

As a leader, are you being intentional in building trust with your followers BEFORE you expect them to follow you?

 

Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

Get more great content about developing a stellar Volunteer Team!

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The 5 I’s: How to Guard Against and Overcome the Silo Mentality.

Silo Mentality is a mindset present when certain departments, sectors or programs, intentionally or unintentionally, do not share information freely. This type of mentality reduces operational efficiency, morale, and eventually contributes to the demise of productivity in the organization’s culture.

Here are 5 ways to guard against and overcome silo mentality.


1. Identity
Communicate the organization’s vision and mission to everyone. From the top down everyone in the organization should be able to clearly state the vision and mission statements.

2. Integrity
Schedule regular meetings focused on accountability and interdepartmental communication. Make sure that all stakeholders attend.
3. Intentional  
Deliberately build bridges between departments. Ensure that people, tasks, and communication flow freely.

4. Influence  
Plan special projects or activities aligned with the organization’s vision and mission. Invite all departments to take part. This will help create synergy and a culture of unity.
5. Impart
Share successes. This will encourage, motivate and inspire everyone.
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The Potential of Uniqueness

“Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Well, she did. And that wasn’t a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one and calls out, ‘Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!’ she doesn’t get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!
This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves’
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.”

– Dr. Suess

It is easier to place people in the same neat little box than to personalize our interactions with them. How much simpler to call everyone “Dave” than take the time to handcraft a unique title?

Growing up, my grandparents had several dogs. Each new dog, my cousins and I were allowed to name it, but invariably, my Grandfather would call them all the same thing. “King” if the dog was male and “Girl” if it was female. He didn’t have to worry about forgetting the new name because they were all the same.

It was easy.

When we work with volunteers, we might find ourselves falling into the temptation to treat everyone as the same “type.” It saves us mental exertion if everyone we work with gets the same end result. The same kind of reward, the same sort of encouragement, the same training, the same correction, the same…whatever.

Granted, working with large groups of volunteers forces us to standardize some aspects of the serving experience: orientation, training, annual rewards or appreciation gifts. But we start to get into trouble when we attempt to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to our relationship with volunteers (or anyone else for that matter!).

Without knowing it, we are forcing members of the team to fit the mold. Be like everyone else. Join the status quo.

What we’re saying through these behaviors is, “Because this is how the majority operates, this is how YOU must operate.” And when we communicate this to our team, they start to believe it. It squashes the creativity, freedom of expression, and the personal touch that comes with people performing in all their unique glory.

Treating people like the individuals they are instead of like an identical cog in the machine takes a little bit of effort. It requires a certain amount of attention. It forces us to get to know people on a personal level. People have complicated, imperfect lives. Things may even get a tiny bit messy.

It’s a challenge for leaders. But one well worth the effort.

What would our organization look like if we began to remember details about our team? If we showed people appreciation in a way that meant the most to them? If we used standardization as a helpful tool instead of a mind-numbing crutch?

I dare say we would begin to see volunteers who thrive in their position. We would see team members who feel valued and come to volunteer excited about their work. We might even start to see increased productivity and more effective staff.

The possibilities are infinite, it just takes a little bit of work. And a lot a bit of remembering names.

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7 Ways to Change Office Atmosphere. PART I

I once worked in an office with an open floor plan. It was me and my co-workers, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, staring across our little cubicles. My first day I nervously sat at my desk and peeked around at the engrossed people around me. Everyone sat in front of their screens, furiously typing, hunched over a phone, or angling their chairs in a way to best avoid accidental eye contact with someone else.

That first day I left the office with a bad headache and feeling more than a little deflated about my environment.

No one was rude or mean. When I talked to people they took the time to smile. Everyone was very polite. And professional.

They were just busy. And it made the atmosphere of the office feel…tense. I couldn’t imagine spending 40 hours a week in such rigid surroundings.

Something had to break. It was either going to be me or them and I decided right then it wasn’t going to be me.

So I started a little experiment.

Over the next couple of weeks I strategically began my mission to create a counterculture in the area surrounding my cubicle. The crazy thing was it worked.

Here are the 7 tactics I used to change my office’s atmosphere without having a leadership position.

#1 Be the change you want to see.

I was determined not to fall into the present culture. I behaved in the way I wished the rest of my coworkers would behave and eventually people began to notice. In fact, they eventually began mirroring some of those same behaviors.

Sometimes the only way to start a revolution is to change yourself. Is the atmosphere at work cold, competitive, and boring? Break the pattern. Smile at others, initiate conversations, sacrifice your time, build bridges.

#2 Offer to help.

You’d be surprised how often offering a hand improves the moods of your coworkers.

For my office, I realized the feeling of tension was caused by an overwhelming workload. I figured if I helped to relieve some of that stress it would ease that sense of heaviness. So I offered to help. Big or small, there was no task I wasn’t ready to tackle. I would purposely eavesdrop on my nearest coworkers to hear if they needed anything. If I heard someone complain about the huge amount of marketing emails they had to send to new clients, I would pop my head over the cubicle wall and ask if I could do the data entry while they worked on the content.

I took out trash, picked up lunches, helped push carts, and printed invoices for a coworker whose printer stalled.

Was it a little inconvenient?

Yes.

Was it effective?

ABSOLUTELY.

In fact, this ended up being the most effective weapon in my arsenal.

#3 Listen.

The reason I was able to help was because I was listening for opportunities. I’ll admit it. I was nosey.

Complete disregard for the old adage, “Mind your own business.”

I made my coworker’s issues, my business. And it payed off.

Bigtime.

I’m not talking about listening for gossip, or prying into people’s personal business. But, it’s incredible the things you’ll pick up if you’re paying attention. Little cues and phrases that are actually signals for help or a listening ear.

Sometimes people just need to vent. Being a safe person where your coworkers can voice frustration, concerns, and anxieties, without fear of you gossiping about them or making them feel bad is invaluable.

I’ll be posting the other 4 tactics next week. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve shifted the culture in your office, class, or home!

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