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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

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Embracing Conflict

If you’re like me, you tend to shy away from conflict. In fact, I used to try to ignore it altogether. Distracting people who were mad became an art form for this peacemaking middle child.

I finally learned the positive power of conflict when I did something that was completely unnatural for me…I embraced it.

Here I was facilitating a group discussion that suddenly took an aggressive turn. One of the participants had been interrupted several times by another group member, and she finally snapped. The two sat facing off and then BOOM. An explosion of what I can only assume were pent up emotions from several weeks of working together.

The tension-filled moment made me feel a mixture of dread and worried energy, as my mind quickly ran through different ways to diffuse the situation.

As I nervously looked around the room, I saw similar expressions of discomfort. The friendly eye-contact that had been the norm so far in our little meeting place abruptly ceased as everyone in the room suddenly found their fingernails, notebook, or watch of vast interest.

The tension was so thick in the office it was palatable.

I took a deep breath and went against every natural instinct in my body. Instead of ignoring the pressure, I leaned into it. “This is interesting, you guys. Let’s keep going with this.”

The next twenty minutes were extremely uncomfortable…and remarkably productive.

Here’s why conflict can be healthy for your team:

It highlights underlying dangers. Conflict is typically a symptom, and if you ignore it, you will never find the disease at its root. Small spats of discord are usually red flags that there is something else going on. You may need to dig a little, but if you ask the right questions, you might find that a team member is going through a difficult situation at home, or perhaps that someone is in the wrong position.

Tension is necessary for growth. You don’t get taller without some growing pains; you can’t start a fire without a little friction. It’s all part of the growing process. What should really worry us is when there are no issues, no disagreements, no opposing forces. That’s a sign of stagnation and may mean that we are missing out on innovation, creativity, and chances to branch out.

It’s an opportunity for team members to bond. Nothing makes or breaks relationships like a little disagreement. Typically, working through disputes brings people closer together and ends up strengthening the team bond as they learn to work through differences.

When I talk about embracing conflict, I don’t mean to create drama, pit team members against each other, or incite unnecessary emotional outbursts. Instead, I’m suggesting that when conflict shows up in our organization, we should take it for what it truly is, an opportunity to grow and create a healthy, vibrant team.

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