Building Trust with Your Tech Team Can Lead to Company-Wide Advantages. ESP Uses Tips from Their Blueprint to Help You Get Started.
As a leader, “Does my team trust me?” is a question to ask on a regular basis. Trust isn’t inherent. It must be earned and shared. As a leader working with technology professionals in the midst of a talent shortage, earning the trust of your team becomes even more imperative. Tech execs play a pivotal role in the success of their team, overall workplace satisfaction, and ultimately, retention. Because of this, trust has always been a core value for our company. ESP has learned that implementing trust tactics not only is essential for doing business with our clients, but it also helps foster positive relationships within our in-office team, and with our consultants.
Below are some of the building blocks of trust we have found to be successful. Though these principles will hold true to leaders in all departments and industries, we’ve found that they hold special value for IT departments, who have always faced the challenge of integrating with and supporting business objectives. Sometimes this means that IT departments have needed to prove their worth, and other times they are the ones driving business goals themselves. Regardless, if you lead well, your team will follow your example and assist in building the bridge between departments. Establishing trust between departments as well as within your internal tech team is an essential element of your success as a leader.
Your team expects you to lead with integrity and consistency. Honor your commitments by doing what you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Others have accredited the success of Google’s new CEO Sundar Pichai to this very principle – joking that his “boringness” (even-keeled, steady, and predictable management style) is a key trait to his effective leadership. But honoring your commitments is about much more than consistency and follow-through on the day-to-day. While your leadership style should be steady and not easily changeable, you can foster change and growth by continually encouraging success and offering long-term opportunities for growth and advancement to your team, and looking for big-picture ways to improve yourself and your workplace.
Act with Integrity
Set yourself apart from others by acting passionately, ethically, and fair in every situation. Passion for what you do shows your investment and builds trust by giving you the motivation you need to achieve more or get through tough times. Passion also makes others excited about the work you are doing and can attract new tech talent. The ability to give direction and avoid micro-managing is key because extending trust is a great way to build trust. Share the intent and motivation behind your actions to instill confidence that they are for the good of all parties concerned.
Treat Others As Equals
Display equality towards all your members of the team because all roles are important. Take the time to get to know your employees – from the rookie developer to the most experienced project manager. Listen to the ideas and feedback from every member of your team and know them by name. Then, whenever possible, implement ideas from your team, or, if that’s not possible, explain why it isn’t and what you learned from their input. This principle was an overarching theme of a recent Gallup survey, which found that leaders who invest in individuals’ strengths, recognize that their team is critical to their own success, and understand the needs of their team outshine all the rest. Showing your tech team that you value each and every one of them will go a long way toward success as a department and the cohesion of your group.
Show Meaningful Acknowledgement & Appreciation
Acknowledging your team’s hard work and victories is vital to building trust, especially when you can give kudos to others without measuring their success against your own. In the same way, it is important to feel their pain and struggles and to help them work through professional setbacks. It’s easy to feel “invisible” appreciation, and leave your thoughts unexpressed to your tech team. That’s why clear, outward, positive reinforcement is so vital. Positive reinforcement can be as simple as sending out an email to the entire team giving accolades to an IT pro’s successful moment or highlighting someone’s hard work. No matter how you do it, by making recognition a matter of priority and action you can keep the morale of your team strong and motivate individuals to continually strive toward improvement.
Assume Positive Intent
Assume that the IT pros on your team want to work hard and do the right thing. Trust that they will work diligently on a project and behave in the best way possible for the company. Have faith in the people on your team: most desire to put in a full day of work, do their job right, and have a positive work environment. If someone misses a deadline or is leaving work early, ask them what barriers they’re facing, with the assumption that there is a good reason. If they don’t seem to have one, be very clear about the behaviors you want to see change, and affirm positive change when you see it.
Share your vision and values as an individual tech team leader as well as the company’s vision and values. These values may not always align perfectly – in fact research has shown that the best-performing organizations have leadership teams who challenge and compliment the culture of their company as a whole. However, communicating these differences as well as your expectations lets your team know where you and your company stand, and gives them a common goal to work towards as a team. This common goal will help foster trust because your employees will know what you expect. It also gives them a better picture of how to do their job well. If you have consultants on your team, be clear with them on their role and their alignment with your team’s values.
Practice Direct, Open and Honest Communication
Have open and honest conversations. Hidden information can make people feel they are not trusted and they might respond with distrust for you. Be willing and open to talk about difficult topics: an open line of communication is vital for a healthy company culture. When a new team member or consultant joins your team, be clear with the rest of your team about why that person is there, the special value he or she brings, and how the whole team can benefit from working together. Open communication also helps to dissuade gossip, complaining, and other negative talk by getting it out in the open before it has time to grow into a bigger problem.
Listen with the Intent to Understand
Practice active listening. We are constantly bombarded by noise and, as a result, are experts at listening for key words and tuning out the rest. However, people can tell when you are actually listening to them. How do you show that you are invested in what they are saying? Ask open-ended questions, use nonverbal cues to show that you are listening, such as nodding your head. Rephrase what they’ve said to you to make sure you understand, and, when appropriate, respond with your view or opinion of the situation, asking for their feedback in return.
You’ve probably heard about most of these behaviors before, and so you know they can’t be faked. To secure the trust of your tech team, you must be sincere in your efforts to earn it. Trust works toward creating a healthy company culture and increases your tech employees’ and consultants’ satisfaction. Continue to work on implementing trust tactics in your work environment and, if you haven’t already, incorporate trust into the core values of your company – ensuring better practices in the future.