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Eight Team Leader Behaviors to Build Trust within Your Team

There’s nothing more important than trust.

BOSTON — “We’ve got a lot going on, we’re managing over $1 billion in assets, I’ve got a really good team, but something is missing in the chemistry,” Paul confided in me with great frustration, and then continued his stream of consciousness with, “as the team leader, I hate to admit it, but I think it’s a trust issue.”

I then took the opportunity to share with him findings published in a Harvard Business Review January/February 2017 article by Paul J. Zak entitled The Neuroscience of Trust. Statistics show that people in high-trust companies were 74 percent less stressed, 106 percent more energetic at work, 50 percent more productive, and 76 percent more engaged.

That got his attention, so I suggested he read the article as Zak outlines what he refers to as “Eight Management Behaviors that Build Trust.” They are very insightful and they are all very actionable. I’ve taken the liberty of adapting them to team leader behaviors, you be the judge.

Eight Team Leader Behaviors that Build Trust

  1. Recognition: Whether it’s private or public, recognizing your personal assistant for keeping you on track with your schedule, your junior advisor for a job well done at a review meeting with a B client or the person who cleaned up the kitchen—it doesn’t matter. Sincere recognition builds trust within the entire team.
  2. Induce Challenge Stress: This is where you assign a difficult but achievable assignment to a team member. From a neuroscience perspective, the moderate stress associated with the task releases oxytocin (a chemical released by the brain that builds trust). For instance, task your junior advisor to meet with 20 of the young up-and-coming CPAs in town.
  3. Give People Discretion in How They Do Their Work: Rather than micro-manage, allow them to have input on how they can best perform their role. This is not implying that Paul’s team members can all work from home. 
  4. Enable Job Crafting: Whether it’s organizing an intimate event or managing the team’s social media, rather than assign, ask who wants to take the lead in that area. Maybe the personal assistant is all about social media and volunteers for the responsibility.
  5. Share Information Broadly: Team goals, strategies and tactics for achieving those goals need to be communicated clearly and frequently to everyone on the team. In Paul’s case, they needed to start sharing individual calendars.
  6. Intentionally Build Relationships: Paul admitted that he used his charm in social settings when prospecting, but probably didn’t pay the same attention to building relationships within his team. A number of his personnel had been with him for years, and, as he admitted, “I think we take each other for granted.”
  7. Facilitate Whole-Person Growth: This goes hand-to-glove with building relationships with team members as now you’re showing interest in their growth as a human being. This is all about personal growth, not learning a new skill for the team.
  8. Show Vulnerability: Ask for help; admitting that you don’t know something or that you’re not good at something goes a long way in building trust. It’s also empowers team members to step up to the plate and help. Paul thought this would be easy because in his words “I need help with all of this.” 

When it comes to people, whether it’s your significant other, clients, or team members, nothing is more important than trust. Trust is often perceived as a feeling, yet clinical studies have determined that trust is an action that in turn impacts feelings. 

In his book, The Science of Trust, John Gottman claims that both trust and mistrust are defined by actions. However, he tells us that mistrust is not the opposite of trust—it’s the enemy of trust. He also shows how selfish acts breed mistrust. As you’ve probably concluded already, the Eight Team Leader Behaviors that Build Trust listed above all require action.

The catch-22 for Paul was dealing with that inaction, which then was creating the mistrust. He was probably being too critical of himself, but I liked his comment on showing vulnerability.

Just imagine—improving productivity 50 percent by paying attention to these eight behaviors. The reality is—trust is an invisible force that has a major impact on your bottom line. 

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.


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