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How to Be a Leader That Your Employees Can Trust

  • Written by Adam Jacobs


If you're looking for a one-word answer on how to be a leader, we can give it to you: respect. Building trust on a team starts and ends with perceived value for each individual person. It will encourage them to bond to one another and to you and, best of all, it'll help get the job done. 

If we're being transparent, the truth is that trust doesn't happen overnight. It's actually a deliberate, diligent effort on the part of the leader. But, when achieved, it's worth its weight in gold. 

Sadly, less than half of all Aussies are happy with their job. Isn't that awful? A large part of that could be rectified if they had a good manager. So, let's change the current. Let's up that statistic.

Together, let's vow to be leaders that our employees can not only trust but also enjoy being around. When done right, your employees may even consider their team, including its leader, to be an extension of their family. Now that's a job well one.  

Give a Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Respect is a two-way street. It doesn't matter who's in charge and who's receiving the orders. Theoretically, you respect your employee because they made it through the hiring process.

On the flip side, if your employees don't respect you, then get ready for a major train wreck and a significant battle of the wills. And while it's true respect doesn't happen overnight, it can be carefully cultivated through the right steps. 

Demonstrate respect in all areas of your employees' lives. Respect their personal time by not making them come in early and stay late every day. Roll up your sleeves and pitch in every chance you get, as well. 

Be consistent. Follow through on what you say. Don't waver. This will almost immediately create a sense of authority and respect. Someone with follow-through is seen as solid ground and that's something every employee wants to stand on. 

Also, have clear expectations, but be forgiving. Ask your employees to hit the mark every time, but forgive them if they don't. They're humans, not robots.

Don't crucify them for their mistakes (thinking it'll prevent them from making them a second time). Have a talk about it. And move on with optimism and encouragement that they've learned from it. 

Communicate Clearly

This whole conversation about consistency and expectations all but begs for a chat on clear communication. You'll never know how to build trust if employees simply don't know what you're asking them for (and live in fear that things will constantly be changed at the last minute). 

How do you do this? Follow the ol' cliché about keeping it simple. When giving basic instructions, write it down in a communication that can be referred back to (i.e., email).

Keep your focus on the specific task at hand, avoiding sidebars and unrelated short stories as your doling out instruction or providing feedback. If your employees never really know "where you're going with all this," it'll make being a leader twice as difficult. 

Be Transparent

Have you ever been around someone that made you feel like they always had an angle? Or maybe you felt like they never really said what was on their mind?

It's a hard thing to pinpoint, but there are some people out there that just put you on edge because you never know what they're thinking. 

Don't be that person. As a supervisor, you don't have to explain every move you make, but you do owe your employees pertinent and accurate information. They don't want to be the last to know that there's going to be a reorganisation or a major shift in their schedules. 

They also don't want to always feel like you're asking them to do something, only to find out there's more. Be transparent up front.

Let them know what you're looking for and, if it's appropriate, why you're looking for it. This will help them prepare for the task at hand and attain their goals.  

Listen More Than You Talk

You'll be able to communicate clearly to each and every personality if you listen more than you talk. Ever wonder why people respect "the quiet man" so much?

If you can pinpoint where your employee is struggling to understand (by listening to their words), you can tailor-make your instruction for them.

For example, if they struggle to use technology, but have superior customer service skills, you'll know where you need to break things down for them and where you can let them fly. 

Lead By Example

Remember how respect includes a respect for your employees' time? Don't expect them to come in early and stay late? Well, if you're working hard, too, then there should be fewer and fewer nights where everyone's burning the midnight oil. 

Leading by example not only "gets stuff done," but also shows employees how it's done. Get your hands dirty. Know your industry inside out so you can roll up your sleeves and remove that carburettor from under the hood or wire in a new sound system with ease. 

But also respect the chain of command. Demonstrate your willingness to roll up your sleeves, but don't discount the person you hired to remove that carburettor in the first place. Ever heard of a micromanager? Yeah, they're not often trusted by their people. 

All this boils down to is modelling good behaviour. What employee wants to multi-task fifteen different things while you're inside your office surfing the net for a new pool table? Leading by example allows you to roll up your sleeves and step back, knowing your team is competent, willing, and able. 

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Who's going to keep putting forth their best effort if it never gets noticed? That would be counter-intuitive. In our opinion, hard work beats talent every time and one of the best ways to encourage hard work is to recognise hard work when it happens. 

Don't just see an employee's "job well done" and tell yourself, "Well, that's what I expect them to do." Instead, choose to highlight their job well done, let them know you recognise it, and encourage more good behaviour through positive reinforcement. 

Trust They Can Get the Job Done

There are two types of parents who teach their children how to drive. There's the parent who grips the edge of their seat, grits their teeth, and shouts at the kid every time they even come close to making a mistake. 

Then, there's the parent who sits back in their seat, hopes for the best, and decides to just deal with the worst if it should happen (without making a scene). This kind of parenting actually allows the child's wings to spread. 

If an employee feels empowered and trusted by their superior, that's going to make them feel pretty good. And isn't that the goal? To foster a positive, encouraging work environment? Make it known that you trust them. But also make it known they can come to you for every kind of support.

We know, first-hand, that entire companies have been built on family values. Hard work and a solid reputation can skyrocket small dreams into large-scale corporations. Let your employees know you trust them and they will work hard to elevate your dreams to new heights.  

Be an Open Door

Don't just have an open door policy. Be an open door. Whenever an employee approaches you, offer a welcoming smile and gesture for them to have a seat. Make them feel at home. How can you be a trusted leader if people don't even trust they can speak to you? 

The thing with trusting them to get the job done is that they actually have to know how to get the job done. So, if they can come to you for advice, come to understand their conundrum, and then take that knowledge and run with it, everybody's winning. 

Even if you're right smack dab in the middle of an important task, be sure to always make your employees feel welcomed. Force yourself to set that important task aside for a moment because one little dollop of support today can translate to major success tomorrow. 

Learn How to Be a Leader Today

Ultimately, knowing how to be a leader begins and ends with respect. Your workers are complex people with human emotions. If you value them and their emotions, they're going to expend a greater amount of energy into the workforce. 

Adam Jacobs is the incredibly busy Managing Director of Bubblegum Casting, and Hunter Talent. He works with some of Australia’s biggest brands, media properties and agencies to secure talented children to work in Television, Film and Modelling roles. They’ve recently launched an office in LA, too.

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