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3 Actions That Instantly Build Trust

Your door might be open, but are you? Try these trust-building actions the next time a team member needs to talk.
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We live in an information-rich, time-poor world, with lots of inputs coming at us in any given moment.

Although it seems like our environment requires us to multitask, more and more research reveals that single-tasking is the most effective approach to getting things done.

Single-tasking is particularly critical to the leader who is trying to establish real trust. Taking the right steps will make it clear to your team members that you:

  • Value each of them as a person and a team member;
  • Are genuinely interested in what each of them has to say;
  • Feel everyone's input can help improve team performance;
  • Are trustworthy and trusting.

These might sound like soft responses, but they yield hard results, because these are three ingredients that determine whether people give discretionary effort--choosing to go above and beyond to help meet your team’s goals.

Your door might be open, but for your team members to feel like you are open, try these trust-building actions the next time a team member needs to talk:

1. Eliminate distractions.

  • Silence your phones (landline and cell) and email and text notifications.
  • Close your door if the topic warrants it.
  • Move away from your PC screen and keyboard so you will not be tempted by them. Put your phone down, ideally out of sight.
  • If you expect an interruption, ask your team member to excuse it in advance.

2. Set time expectations.

  • Tell your team member that you have X minutes to talk, then ask if he or she thinks that will be sufficient.
  • If not, it is perfectly fine to reschedule so you can focus your full attention.
  • If it is an urgent matter, spend any time you have now, then schedule a follow-up in short order.

3. Ask, then listen.

  • Show genuine interest by asking questions to understand the root cause of the issue.
  • Seek to fully understand your team member’s concern before you suggest solutions.
  • Paraphrase what you heard to ensure it was what your team member intended to communicate.
  • Watch for nonverbals to get the full story. Assess what the nonverbals say about the person’s anxiety, confidence, and degree of emotion around the topic.

Give your precious time and attention and get your team’s trust.

Find more practical words to lead by. Read free book chapters from the author's book Leadership Matters for more insights.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Apr 16, 2014

LEE COLAN | Columnist

LEE COLAN is founder of The L Group, a consulting firm that equips and inspires leaders at every level. He is a leadership advisor, presenter of practical ideas, and a Thinkers 50 nominee for Top Management Thinker.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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