Building Trust and Empowering Your Direct Reports

Building trust and empowering your direct reports is not just a managerial task; it's an art that requires dedication, consistency, and a genuine interest in your team members. But that’s often easier said than done. 

Trust is created over time and requires a consistent, prolonged approach to managing direct reports. 

What makes a person trust their manager? Here are some (genuine) tactics to consider: 

Be the Role Model

Leading by example is crucial. Live your values consistently and demonstrate to your direct reports that you adhere to the standards you set for them. Consistency is critical to delivering results and ensuring your plans materialise as promised. Strive to underpromise and overdeliver, setting a positive tone for your team.

Show Genuine Interest

Beyond professional interactions, take the time to demonstrate real interest in your team members. Understand who they are beyond their jobs; get to know them on a personal level. Ask them about their life, their hopes, and aspirations. Show that you legitimately care about their well-being. Building a personal connection fosters a sense of belonging and trust. Remember, people are more likely to trust and follow a leader who cares about them as individuals.

Empower Direct Reports by Delegating Effectively 

Empowering your direct reports involves effective delegation. Tailor your delegation style based on individual competencies and engagement levels.

For highly engaged and competent individuals, delegate according to the person. Provide them with objectives and allow them the freedom to determine how best to achieve them. This approach leverages their skills and fosters a sense of ownership and autonomy.

However, this approach likely will not work for less engaged direct reports. In those cases, it’s better to adopt a task-oriented approach. Be explicit about expectations and provide clear guidance on how to meet them. Regular check-ins and feedback sessions can help maintain alignment with expectations and provide growth opportunities.

Work towards Continuous Development and Feedback

Understanding your team's competencies is fundamental to effective delegation. Regularly assess their strengths and areas for improvement. Provide opportunities for continuous development through training programs, mentorship, or exposure to new challenges. Encourage an open feedback culture where team members feel comfortable sharing their perspectives on tasks and processes.

Consider the Trust Equation

To ‘measure’ the level of trust within your team, consider the trust equation: 

Trust= (Credibility+Reliability+Intimacy) / (Self-Orientation)

Credibility refers to what you say and preach and to your track record. For example, when a direct report needs to discuss a challenge they’re facing, you can provide the correct information based on expertise and knowledge.

Reliability means doing what you say you’re going to do. If a manager promises to provide a resource to a direct report or to address an issue on their behalf, then they need to follow through on that promise. Managers who fail to do this will lose their direct reports’ trust in them and may ultimately lose their productivity. 

Intimacy is about being genuinely interested in who the person is. It’s one thing to ask about someone’s day or how they’re feeling, but it needs to go beyond pleasantries. Managers need to get to know their direct reports more profoundly and build genuine relationships with them. It is about creating a safe context.

Finally, self-orientation describes your direct reports’ view of whether your actions are driven by personal motives or concerns rather than the well-being of their team or organization. It reflects the degree to which you appear to be aligned with the team's needs and goals or if you are more focused on your own gains or priorities.

To measure the trust level of your direct reports, you can ask them to rate you on each factor on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. This simple calculation can provide insights into the trust dynamic within your team. 

Ultimately, it’s essential to understand that building trust and empowering your direct reports takes time. There is no one thing you can do to earn their trust, but by consistently showing up and showing interest, your direct reports' trust in you as a leader will grow. By following these strategies, you can create an environment where your team thrives, contributing their best while feeling supported and valued. 

Most importantly, remember that trust is built through actions, not just words.

Are you ready to become a Growth Leader? We can help! Schedule a free clarity call and we’ll have an effective exchange in how to build trust within your organisation.

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Effective Communication for Effective Leadership