How Do You Gain the Trust of Your Team?
This is a guest post by Stephanie LeBlanc. Stephanie is the practice administrator at TotalCare Hulen in Fort Worth, Texas. She also holds other leadership positions including president of her accounting firm, as well as Project Connect Texas, a non-profit organization she founded to serve the Dallas/Fort Worth community.
- Wes Saade, M.D.
As a leader, there will be times when you need your team to believe in you. Particularly when the circumstances are difficult, when you can’t reveal all the reasons behind an unpopular decision, or you must simply deliver a message that no one will want to hear.
When times are hard, how do you gain the trust of your team?
Work for Your People
Only a few months into my first Controller position, the oil and gas industry went through a major recession. The company I worked for at the time had been issued a rate cut by our customers. We knew that in order to survive this period, we had to find a way to cut our spending dramatically.
I was given the task of calculating how much the company would need to cut in order to operate on the reduced income. After all of the cuts in the budget were made, we still needed to make significant reductions in spending. The only place left, that would make any real impact on the company’s ability to survive, was in their labor costs. After much calculation and deliberation, there was no other option but to cut our employees’ pay across the board in order to preserve their jobs. It was a brutal decision to make.
I stood next to the president of the company as she delivered the news to all of our staff. This was the most difficult task that I had been faced with since I took the position, and I wasn’t sure how the employees would handle the news. As I passed out letters to our employees indicating how much their pay had been reduced, the president and I both had tears in our eyes. We knew that this would have a devastating impact on all of our employees and their families.
As we both struggled to make it through the meeting, and feared how our employees would react, we were very surprised when they began comforting us. This was not at all how we imagined they would take the news. Our employees trusted us. They knew that we did not make the decision lightly, and that what we were doing had to be done in order for everyone to remain employed. In the end, only two people resigned, and one asked for his job back once he had time to really think through what was going on.
When you genuinely work hard for your people’s wellbeing, they will know it. And you will gain their trust.
When a difficult decision is being passed down, it is important that you are not simply relaying a message from someone else before fully owning it yourself. Before you communicate with your team, you must do whatever is necessary to understand the changes and support the organization’s leadership. This is especially true when you are faced with leading your team into something that may impact them negatively. If you truly believe what you are telling your team, they will see your sincerity, and they will be more willing to follow your direction.
The lesson I learned from my experience with the oil and gas company is that when you are honest with yourself, others will believe in you too. When we told our staff that this was the only way, we knew in our hearts that it was true. We knew this, not because we guessed it would solve our problem, or because we had a hidden agenda. Rather, we put in the hours and energy to make sure there was no other option. Therefore, we believed it truly was the only way. As a result, our people knew that it was as well. And so, a key to earning the trust of others is to first trust yourself.
As you seek the trust of your team, first concern yourself with the welfare of your people. Then trust yourself and the integrity of your decisions before you ask your team to trust in you and follow you.
Practice Administrator, TotalCare
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