You’ve got a long track record of leading well. You just wish your new team would talk to your last team. That would save a heck of a lot of precious time. If they would just trust you, you could get on to making your usual magic. But it’s never as simple as that. If you’re good, at this stage of the game you may feel you deserve a better reception from your new team. You may, but they’re still skeptical. The last guy was a jerk and the scars are still oozing.
7 Ways to Build Trust with a Skeptical Team
1. Don’t Trash the Last Guy
The more you listen, the worse the stories will sound. It’s tempting to react and trash the guy before. It may feel cathartic, and it may even feel like you’re part of the solution. Don’t go there. Build your credibility on your own merits. No good ever comes from tearing other people down. Besides, you never know the whole story. Tell the stories at dinner to your spouse and (if they’re not too dirty) to your kids. Then let it go.
2. Listen, and then Listen Some More
Hear the frustration and understand the root cause. Get to know the team as human beings. But be careful. Watch your facial expressions. See #1. Seek to understand, but resist the urge to judge.
3. Break it Down
The best way to get to know a new team is one person at a time. Invest deeply one-on-one. Learn about what they need, want, and yearn most to give. Here’s a tool that can help.
4. Share Stories
The team is yearning for signs that you are credible and competent. Share a bit about your leadership track record of results–framing it in the context of stories of what your previous teams were able to achieve (not what YOU achieved).
5. Find some Early Wins
Pick some important low-hanging fruit, and help the team achieve an early win. Nothing builds credibility faster than success.
6. Let them in
Tell the truth. Be a bit vulnerable. Let them know who you are and what scares you. Show up human. This post can help.
7. Prove They Matter
Show them you’ve got their backs. Take a bullet or two. Give them the credit. The team needs to know you care about them and their careers at least as much as you care about your own. First impressions matter, for you and for them. Don’t judge their early skeptical behavior, or assume they’re disengaged or don’t care. If they sense your frustration, that will only increase their defensive stance. Investing deeply at the beginning will create the strong foundation you need for long-term, breakthrough results.