You’ve got regular contact with your team, but do they really know you?
Think back to when you had a new boss who you didn’t know very well. Because you were unfamiliar with them you were probably a little bit wary about them at first. You wanted to get a feel for them before deciding who they were and how you needed to behave.
Smart bosses help their teams get to know them by sharing more about themselves. They get that awkwardness out of the way quicker, and speed up the development of trusting relationships, which leads to greater influence.
But you can’t just spew out any old information about yourself, and what you do tell your people needs to be backed up with consistent action.
So here are 5 things your team should know about you so that they can trust you as a leader.
What you stand for
What are your strong beliefs and principles? What do you care about at work? If you don’t communicate what’s important to you, then your staff will need to learn this through trial and error. And since we make decisions based on our values, you’re dooming them to make the wrong decisions if you haven’t told them whether they should focus on a commitment to high quality or high volume, for example.
So what do you believe? What types of things do your people do at work that make you want to stand up and applaud? What makes you want to sit them down and have a serious talk? Build clarity on what these things are – these behaviours that you value are what you stand for.
What you’re working on
The first part of what you’re working on is your work goals in terms of tasks and projects. It’s key to keep your staff up to date with what you’re working on (as long as it’s not confidential) so that they understand that you’re not simply assigning work to them and not contributing. Your role is different to theirs, and thinking that they should implicitly understand that reality is naïve. If you don’t share what you can about what you’re working on then what you “do” is a mystery to them rather than something they know.
The second part is the more personal stuff you’re working on as a leader. If you tend to lose your cool and you’re working on building strategies to keep a calm head, tell your staff. If your emails are impersonal and you want to change that, tell them you’re working on that, too. The worst thing to do (after not trying to change anything about yourself because you’re the boss and everyone else should just suck it up) is learn something new and then drastically change your behaviour without giving the team the heads up. That’s a recipe for distrust, because you’ll be behaving in unexpected ways and your team will feel off balance around the new you.
What your pet loves and hates are
Everyone has pet peeves. If you’ve got something that’s an absolute no-no to you (tardiness, typos or talking over people, for example) then share that with your team rather than letting it go unsaid while you seethe under the surface. People will eventually work out what bugs you, but why make them wait? While you’re at it, ask them what their pet peeves are and together as a team you can come up with ideas on how to work well together without driving each other over the edge.
The flip side is sharing what your pet loves are. Do you love it when people submit reports early? Is it your favourite thing when a team member compliments the work of one of their colleagues? Help your team understand how they can impress you and get on your good side and you’ll find those behaviours happening with regularity.
How you will hold them accountable
It may not be your favourite part of the job, but there will come a time when you need to pull someone up on work they haven’t done, their attitude, or their behaviour.
If people know what the “punishment” will be, then there’s no element of surprise when you hold them accountable. Be clear about the impact on the organisation, the team, and re-iterate the consequences to the individual if they don’t do what’s been agreed. When you’re consistent and fair with this, you will build up so much more trust with the team than if you let things slide.
That you’re human
If you’ve got a huge passion outside of work, share that with the team. Love a particular sport? Let them know. Are you a huge supporter of a particular charity? Share that with the team. Is your spouse undergoing health issues that are impacting your energy levels? People want to know. Until you share more of you, you’re the boss and only the boss, not a person with hobbies and a family and your own joys and challenges.
You’ll need to use your own judgement about how much is enough. This isn’t about giving a play-by-play of your last basketball game, but it might be sharing that you won the Grand Final.
So how much do they know right now?
Take a moment to decide where you are on the scale of “mystery boss” to “known-liked-trusted boss.” What else does your team need to know about you to bring you closer to that know-like-trust factor that is a pre-cursor to influence?
Now find a way to make your next contact with the team a way for them to know you just that little bit better.
Debbie Thompson is a leadership coach who combines her years in leadership positions with her love of coaching high achievers to outstanding results. She works to help managers, leaders and business owners master that “leadership thing” so that they get more clarity, have more impact, and multiply their influence.