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2 Steps to Building Trust as a Manager

Source | | Jason

One of the most common questions I get from managers and leaders is about building trust.

In most cases, they understand the importance of trust to a healthy and productive relationship with their employees, but they are stumped about how to do it or even where to start.

I think we tend to over-complicate things when we talk about trust. In my experience, there are two simple things that any manager or leader can to do have an immediate positive impact on trust with the people they lead.

First, trust your people (even before you have evidence that they are trustworthy).

This may be challenging if you are naturally skeptical or have been burned in the past, but one of the most powerful ways to earn trust is to first give it away.

  • Tell your employees that you trust them and that you will continue to trust them until they prove they are not deserving of that trust.
  • Demonstrate that you trust them by taking them at their word, allowing them autonomy, and assuming positive intentions when things don’t go as planned.

Extending trust does something very powerful, it creates an expectation of trustworthiness for the employee. Due to what psychologists have described as the Pygmalion Effect, we tend to live up (or down) to the expectations of our leaders. By extending trust, you may actually make that person more trustworthy.

There’s another reason to extend trust. Our brains are hardwired for reciprocity in our relationships with others.  Meaning, when someone extends trust to me, I’m more likely to extend trust in return.  You can probably remember a time in the past when someone entrusted you unexpectedly with something very meaningful. You probably remember feeling a strong sense of commitment and trust immediately to that person as a result, even if you didn’t know them well. That’s reciprocity in action.

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