15 Ways Leaders Say, “I Trust You” Without Using Words

There are many ways that leaders say, “I trust you”; however, the most effective are often said without using words. You can tell in their voice, the way they manage, and the way that they don’t hover over you like a news helicopter waiting for a story to break.

1. Delegate

One way to develop team member’s trust is to delegate more tasks to them. This doesn’t mean that you dump everything onto one or two employees or delegate your most important tasks to them; however, as you see individuals working hard and doing well, increase their level of responsibility. Give them increasingly harder tasks and assignments when they show the capability.

2. Promotion!

This is a great way to motivate employees and to really let them know you trust them. Obviously, you would not reward a promotion to an employee who was not trustworthy. Even if it’s a small promotion, this is a huge encouragement for just about anyone.

3. Give a raise or bonus

Raises don’t have to be big to make a huge impact. In this economy, every little bit helps. What if you can’t afford to give a team member a raise? What about getting creative with benefits? Give employees their birthday off, offer a gym membership (maybe work something out with a local gym), or give days off for volunteer work. There are countless creative solutions that can motivate and earn your team’s trust.

4. Get to know your team

Often times, leaders stand at a distance from their team. There is an appropriate distance to maintain, but too often, this distance is too much. Letting your guard down every once in a while and sharing something personal with your team shows them you not only trust them on a professional level, but also trust them on a more personal level. This is especially true for working with the Millennial and younger generations. They want to know you care as much as they want to know your expertise in a certain area.

5. Communicate openly

If there is a problem in your group or at work, communicate as much as you can. Not communicating can actually encourage rumors to fly and begins an atmosphere of mistrust. Not sharing anything can really harm a team. People are naturally curious and sweeping issues under the rug help no one.

Share as much as you can without betraying confidences and without causing unnecessary fear or worry. There is a fine line here, but I feel that it is better to share as much as you can.

6. Recognize excellence

There are all kinds of ways to recognize employees without spending a fortune (this might even be an idea for a future post). A plaque, a certificate, or just a simple thank you card lets employees know that you appreciate them and helps to build trust in your team. How? They know you are watching them and appreciate hard work and effort.

7. Nothing says “I trust you” like telecommuting!

With the availability of the Internet, virtual machines, and cloud storage, the virtual office is on the rise. More and more companies are allowing their employees to work from their home or another location. This is a huge trust issue and can also save a company overhead. For jobs that don’t require a lot of face time, this could be a legitimate solution for people who have family responsibilities, want to work part-time, or use it as a reward for those that have earned your trust and continue to produce results.

8. Send employees to a conference

Here’s another way to let specific people know that you trust them and believe in them. Send them to a conference. What’s better? Let them pick a conference themselves. Final approval is up to you, but what if it’s a conference on personal growth, spirituality, or something that doesn’t pertain to business? If it’s something that they want to do and the budget allows, why not? A happy employee is a productive employee, and what better way to let them know you trust them than to allow them space to develop personally as well as professionally. Don’t have the budget to send them? Allow them time off with pay to go anyway.

9. Provide ample space and time to work

No, I’m not talking about Fringe or the space-time continuum (might make for another interesting post, though). Wherever there are bosses, there are those who have a tendency to hover. I’ve been on the receiving end of that and it’s no fun. If you’ve hired someone, give them room to work (and breathe). No one likes a boss who micromanages them. As a former boss of mine used to say, “There are a million ways to wash the dishes.” Meaning, she did not care how we got our job done as long as we got it done. You might have a member of your team who does not do a project in the way or the time that you would. So what? Now, there’s a problem if things don’t get done at all. I realize that. But if they are working and the end product works, then does it really matter how?

10. Ask opinions

I believe that this is probably one of the under-utilized tools of leadership. Ask other’s opinions – especially those that work for you. People astound me at how creative they are, but no one ever notices. Why? Because hardly any one asks them for their opinion. Lead a brainstorming session with your team. Better yet, visit with your workers one by one. See their eyes sparkle. See their chest puff out. If that doesn’t say, “I trust you,” I don’t know what will.

11. Listen to suggestions

This suggestion (see what I did there) goes hand-in-hand with #10 above. Just asking someone’s opinion doesn’t mean a thing if you’re not engaged in really listening and trying to understand who you’re talking to. What’s behind their suggestion? What motivates them to work and be part of the team (the answers might surprise you)?

Research shows that money and position aren’t necessarily the things that motivate workers. They want to feel like they’re making a difference and that the work matters beyond the immediate payoff. They want to contribute and be a part of something that is bigger than them. As you listen, you will begin to discover just what motivates your team and how you can continue to build trust.

12. Serve employees

Serving employees builds trust? Just as respect has to be earned, so does trust. Leaders model what they want from their team. As the leader goes, so goes the team. Servant leadership is a trait that is lacking from the business world today.

Many leaders expect their subordinates to serve them, but what about doing things that serve your team? Serving others requires a certain amount of vulnerability which translates into trust. Your people will trust you more and shows that you trust them to model their leadership after you.

13. Team Building Outing

One of the greatest ways to build trust among teams is to organize a team building event. I would suggest at least a day or two for your event. Half-day events are fine for motivation, but if you really want to establish trust with your team, you need more time.

Although team building events take time and money, with the right event, you can dive into team issues, build trust, improve communication, and solidify your team structure using a variety of activities and exercises.

14. Empower others to lead

You don’t have to give a raise or promotion to start letting others lead. What does this look like on a day-to-day basis? As team members grow and develop, you will notice some that just “get it”. They are loyal to you and they understand the vision of the organization and their role in it. You sense a desire from them to do more and be more.

Little by little, groom them to lead.

Start with small things: have them lead a portion of the team meeting, have them help create a presentation you are working on, let them co-lead a workshop with you. Some of these things might take more time and effort than just doing them yourself, but the dividends will pay off in the end.

15. Encourage time with family or personal time

For those who have families, the work-life balance can be difficult to maintain. Kids sports and activities, school functions, sickness, and just spending time with spouses can be stressful when combined with demands of the job. Encourage your team to spend time with their families and help them think of ways to create space for that.

Will you have people take advantage of this? Maybe, but you can spot that pretty quickly and deal with it. I would venture that the rest of your team will work better and have better attitudes and be more productive without the worry of family on their minds.

What about your single employees? Don’t assume that they will “pick up the slack” from your employees with families. That’s not fair to them. Encourage hobbies, personal time, and time with friends as much as possible.

Feedback: What about you? What are ways you let employees know “I trust you” without using those specific words?

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