I recently ran into a friend while grabbing some lunch. He had been newly promoted to a leadership position. He claimed to like the business and his role, but something seemed amiss, so I dug deeper.
“You tell me you like managing people, but you seem uneasy about something,” I shared.
“Well, in my 1:1s, I ask how everything is going, but it’s like pulling teeth getting people to share beyond what I ask. I worry they will think I am micromanaging if I ask too many questions. But, if I don’t ask, I won’t know if they are doing the right things, especially when we are working remotely.”
“How well do you feel like you know your people beyond work?” I inquired.
“Well, one guy and I bond a lot because we’re both really into hiking, but I don’t know much about the others. I’m so busy, and it just doesn’t feel like chatting is a good use of my time.”
In trying to reach his business objectives, my friend had yet to invest the time to get to know his people as people. Because they did not feel known, they did not trust him yet and did not feel safe to share.
When we lead others, we are responsible for inspiring them, tapping into what makes them tick, and removing the things that serve as barriers to their success. However, we must gain their trust first.
Failure to do so causes people to wonder whether we have their backs. They won’t “keep it real” with us. We won’t be able to help them. We won’t know what they are hiding from us. We won’t know if they are looking for another job.
As leaders, how do we get our team members to trust us?
Our people need to know that we know what we are doing and that our direction is grounded in expertise. You wouldn’t take piano lessons from someone who had only played for a month, right?
We must do what we say we will do. Our actions need to match our words. If a team member asks us to call on an important customer, and we agree but then forget about it, we send a message that they cannot depend on us.
Show that you care
In the past, I once had a manager who said, “I don’t care about your personal life. Just don’t let it get in the way of your work.” How could I trust someone who would say something like that?
Be selfless rather than self-serving
I once worked for a manager who always seemed to have an “angle.” She’d prioritize making herself look good over the needs of her team members. She’d take credit for her team’s successes but never own any part of their mistakes. People will not trust you if they think you’re only out for number one.
Trust, and by extension, mistrust, flows both ways. If a salesperson is not doing their job and hiding something, you will uncover it quickly. However, most sales professionals want to achieve excellence, and they want a leader who wants them to succeed. By earning their trust, you open the gates so that they will tell you what they need, what challenges they face, and if the competitors are knocking on their door. It’s your job to help your reps be the best they can be. With a heavy dose of trust, you can make that happen.
Kristen Schmitt spent 20 years as a sales leader at Pearson. Since then Kristen has started her own firm, Thrive to Lead, where she coaches senior sales leaders. Kristen and fellow sales leader veteran Karson Kovakovich teach The High EQ Sales Leader, providing sales leaders with frameworks and guidance to build trust within their team for top sales performance.