The Smartest Thing A Leader Can Do? Trust Your Team

Sean Harper, CEO & co-founder of Kin Insurance.

My company is a firm believer in action. Every employee at every level is taught that the person closest should solve any problem. Moreover, we make sure they shouldn’t have to go through layers of management to do it. This idea is central to our company culture, and I argue it’s a major component of our success. 

Employees who are allowed and encouraged to make decisions and offer ideas have higher job satisfaction. This can translate into better employee retention and organizational performance. But it’s also a huge boon to management who can stop micromanaging their team and start focusing on the big picture. 

That said, it’s not easy to step back and let your people perform when you have so much riding on their work. We’ve found that putting systems in place to clarify goals and foster communication helps build the trust needed to encourage autonomy in our company. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. 1. Develop a Playbook

Great leaders are also great coaches. Every great coach has a playbook that outlines how their team should behave in different situations. It’s something anyone on the team can fall back on when questions arise. Our playbook is actually a Wiki. It contains training guides, how to documents and other useful information that employees can use to find answers. 

Your business’ playbook might include:

• Your expectations for daily processes

• The purpose and functions for each department

• Your company’s organization chart and directory

• Answers to frequently asked questions from both employees and customers

Your employees’ information is the most important factor in deciding what you include or not include in your playbook. 

Remember, also, that playbooks should only be used as a guideline. Although it does not have to be set in stone, the information provides guidance for employees when they are faced with a problem. People will add to it as new concerns arise. You should have a system to update and archive information. It can become cumbersome. 

The TakeawayThe playbook is an invaluable resource that team members can refer to to help them feel confident that they are doing things correctly. As they become more adept at solving problems, their managers will gain trust in their employees’ abilities. It’s a win-win all around. 

2. Get feedback and ideas

Your best resource for identifying bottlenecks in your daily operations and improving them is your employees. My company has an internal platform that allows employees to make suggestions for improving operational procedures. All those involved can vote and comment on the suggestions they believe will make a difference to workflows. This feedback has given us valuable insight into what works, and helped us improve our processes. 

The TakeawayEmployees feel more like valuable problem-solvers and less like cogs in the machine when they are encouraged to offer feedback. They’re also much more likely to buy into any changes you make, which boosts productivity.   

3. Invest in a Project Management Tool

Do you remember how hateful group projects were in school? Either one person was certain they were doing the work or the whole thing would go sour because no one knew what the other was doing. This can also happen in a business. That is why tools like Trello and Asana for project management are essential for building trust. All parties can see the progress of a project through the pipeline. Additionally, most platforms allow for teammates to communicate directly.

The takeaway: The right project management tool gives employees and managers a bird’s eye view so everyone can see each step as it’s accomplished.  

4. Establish Internal Connections

I must make sure my employees know who they can turn to for help if I want them to solve problems. That means I have to make sure they know who does what across every department — or at least know how to find that out. A company directory is sufficient in many cases. However, every business has key contacts for certain situations. This requires some extra effort. It is a great way for new employees to get to know each other.

The takeaway: Your employees will feel empowered when they know where to find answers. Plus, employees feel more invested when they have relationships with their coworkers. 

Building trust within your team

Trust is the driving force behind autonomous employees, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Managers and employees can gain confidence when they have systems that keep them on the same page.

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