Management is all about earning trust and getting trust. That’s because a huge component of success has nothing to do with you—it’s about having a great team. Your success comes from the successes of your team, and you have to inspire them to be able to work together. And in order to do that, they have to trust that you’re doing right by them.
In my 40 years in the business, here are the most important things I’ve learned about how to cultivate relationships built on trust:
1. Be generous
One of the most important leadership traits is what I call the generosity gene. It describes someone who is generous with praise, with recognition and with their cash. That person is thrilled to see others receive promotions and doesn’t get jealous. Generosity really is a differentiator because people will go the extra mile for that person—they trust them, and they’ll tell them the truth.
The worst thing you can do is kick down and kiss up. Everyone sees right through it. People will assume you’re using them as a stepping-stone to the next job. You have to be absolutely candid and caring, and you can never be a phony.
2. Make everyone part of the conversation
When you start a new job, you have to be as inclusive as possible. Get feedback from all kinds of people. Listen to and understand where people are coming from so you can make informed decisions. You’ve got to show your peers that you listen to them, you care about them, you want their input and you’re not a know-it-all. They’ll want to work with you and will be more likely to respect you and honor your decisions as a leader.
3. Get everyone on board with your goals
Always let your team know where they’re going and why they’re going there. When coming up with those goals, don’t leave out how they will affect your employees. You don’t want your team to think, “Wait, what’s in it for me?” Put change for the institution in context with your team’s personal life. Translate the business success into things like job opportunities, raises and stock options—your team will be more willing to get on board.
4. Prioritize feedback
You have to let people know where they stand. No one should come to work and wonder what the management is thinking about them. Frequent appraisals are absolutely critical to get everyone on the same page. I always had an index card where I wrote what I liked about what the person was doing and what they could do to improve. That handwritten note card shows you’ve thought about it, and you can talk through it while looking at the card together.
Jack Welch is executive chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute, an online MBA program at Strayer University that transforms the lives of its students by providing them with the tools to become better leaders, build great teams and help their organizations win.
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