How Do I Trust My Staff?

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I bet you've been in this situation before: you've handed something over to a team member, they've delivered it back to you and it's come out wrong.

The quickest way for you to solve that situation was for you to do it yourself. The problem with that is a habit is formed, and it means you don't trust your staff.

If you push that to the limit and apply it to everything you need to do, you’ll end up exhausted and burnt out.

You’ve probably spent more time than you should performing many different roles within the business, rather than trusting your team to deliver. Tasks like setting up projects, attending every internal meeting and fielding customer concerns are important, but your staff can take these on too–that’s going to reduce your to-do list for a start.

It’s tempting to still do everything by yourself because you want specific results. This goes back to a mindset that only you can do things the exact way you want them done, but have you ever stopped to think about why you only rely on yourself, despite your team’s support?

I’ve been there myself. In my custom cycling wear business, Seight, I was wearing every hat imaginable. I was coordinating with suppliers, dealing with customers, handling all the administrative work and on top of that I had to guide my team (not to be confused with empowering them). 

I was so caught up in the day-to-day errands that I would end up doing 15+ hour days and that had a knock on effect on my whole life. 

I devoted myself to my business to the point that my personal relationships broke down culminating in my wife asking for a divorce. I’d run myself ragged and I didn’t know how to get back up, given I’d taken everything on alone thinking my team couldn’t be trusted with it. 

When given the chance, staff produce results and it’s a good feeling when they take on challenges and succeed, which motivates them to keep working for the business’ goals.

The lesson I learned is to find good people and trust them to perform.

Why do you need to trust your staff?

Trust is essential for all teams. A recent Harvard Business Review study showed that teams of high-trust companies exhibit 74 percent less stress, 50 percent higher productivity, and feel 40 percent less burnout.

It’s crucial to have a high level of trust in the workplace because staff enjoy a positive and collaborative work culture. Team members feel they can build on each other’s ideas and engage with fellow employees, so they’re more engaged in the work they do.

When there’s trust among staff, they’re proud of where they work and are more willing to go above and beyond for your organisation. Employees in this environment show initiative, make suggestions confidently and volunteer to help, even if it isn’t necessarily in their remit.

Trust in the workplace also helps staff feel secure in their job and reduces turnover. When employees feel managers rely on them to churn out excellent output, they’re motivated to produce better quality work and push the business to the next level.

5 ways leaders can build trust with employees

You may be feeling burnt out and know you’re stuck working “in the business” and want things to get better, but feel lost and don’t know where to start getting help. 

It pays to remember you built your business and hired a team to provide the best service to your customers, but they can only do that with you if you trust them. 

When you trust your staff, you free up more time and headspace to focus on scaling your operation.

  1. Ask consistently and listen attentively

Start and maintain conversations with your team about what’s most important for building trust and how they prefer to be recognised. 

Transparency from your end through consistent communication, including regularly scheduled updates on work performance and the health of the organisation, is only one aspect that staff members find valuable in establishing trust. 

Find out how your team likes to receive feedback and their most effective style of communication. 

Some employees need constructive input on the exact task they’re working on, while others prefer an overview of all the areas for improvement in scheduled performance reviews. It helps to be conscious of what method helps your team understand you better. 

It pays to actively listen to employees' answers, and “drilling down” with more questions turns a quick chat into a meaningful dialogue. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation that takes a huge chunk of your time, as long as you listen to what your team is saying and act accordingly.

The next step is following up with action that supports staff ideas and concerns, as this reinforces that the manager listened.

  1. Encourage experimentation and creativity

There’s more than one way to carry out a task, so be open towards trying different processes that get you where your business needs to be. Start by collaborating with your team on deliverables that need to be achieved and give them autonomy over how a task should be done

See how employees experiment with the process, let them fail and impress upon them they need to learn from their failures. It’s important to strive for success, but being unnecessarily hard on everyone doesn’t help establish trust in your team. Your staff will only associate it with excess pressure, and in turn won’t share ideas that could potentially improve your process.  

Encouraging creativity and promoting experimentation is crucial because you strategically create smaller scale and more controlled failures before your product or service goes to market. This also applies for any SOPs you put in place because you refine and tweak it after seeing what works prior to finalising it as the standard.   

Apart from that, when you understand your staff’s level of comfort with independent work, you can gauge which tasks are better assigned to different team members. Some employees may work better with less supervision, while others may need additional input while it’s being done. 

When you promote a culture of trial and error while still in pursuit of your goals, your staff can trust you to take note of their progress and grow alongside them in your journey.

  1. Provide balanced feedback

Understand your team’s strengths and weaknesses, and celebrate what team members excel at. If an employee gets their mistakes rubbed in their face then expected to improve after a dispiriting chat, they’re unlikely to do better. 

You and every staff member have room to develop, so a positive attitude towards these aspects can encourage trust. You’re their manager and your team counts on you to provide leadership and direction, so an overly critical perspective stunts everyone’s growth.

When providing constructive feedback, identify areas for improvement and work with your team members to arrive at solutions together. 

A culture that only focuses on negative feedback or what people are doing wrong can leave your team feeling discouraged or defensive. 

  1. Build the right processes

Putting in the work to build processes that involve the team saves you from taking on everything yourself. When you haven’t set any processes, you’re constantly grasping at straws and trying to create things as you go along.

Having SOPs that everyone can agree on and rely on fosters trust, because the whole team is involved in making the guidelines. 

When everyone follows the same procedure, people can independently carry out tasks that would normally eat into your time as a business owner and at the same time show the team you trust them with tasks that contribute to meeting bigger objectives, such as scale and profit.

With the combined ideas and skills of you and your staff, the right processes show teams how the business will put in the work every day to reach its goals.

  1. Get a coach

Trust is a habit built over time with the right methods. 

A habit like this isn’t easy to regularise, especially if it’s new to you and you’ve been doing things mostly on your own for a long time. It’s important to acknowledge that you need to have faith in your team and be intentional about trusting them little by little in ways you can manage, despite the initial discomfort.

In building habits like this, the mentorship and guidance of a coach is necessary to establish it in your business. A coach can help you focus on interactions with your team, set realistic expectations and improve communications. 

Often you need an outsider to keep you accountable, because the idea is to focus more on the leadership instead of getting caught up in what you need to be doing on top of running your business. 

It’s tempting to pile all the tasks onto your to-do list because you need it done the way you envision it, but getting lost in the housekeeping of your business and keeping your team from discovering what else they can do won’t deliver results. 

With active listening, meaningful conversations with your team, the right processes and advice you can build trust in your organisation. Reliable staff and a culture of trust at work free up time for yourself and get the business where you need it to be.

If you want support planning and building trust in your team, book a call with us. Our business sherpas can get you back on track to what’s essential for your long-term goals.

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