The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “How do you build trust with employees when you’re the new boss?” is written by Kammi Skrzypek, head of northern territory at Farmers Insurance.
We all know that starting a new job isn’t easy. This is especially true when you’re the one in charge. Though I’ve been with Farmers for more than 29 years, I was promoted last year and didn’t know a single person on my new team. And yet, in less than a year, the territory I now oversee became one of the highest-producing regions in the organization. This didn’t happen overnight, though.
I had to learn how to be a true leader—not just a manager. Whether you’re a business owner or team leader, gaining your employees’ respect and trust is key to your brand’s overall success and productivity. These three things will help you to have a positive and lasting impact on your employees’ work ethic and experience, which will manifest strong results:
For the first 30 days in my new position, I actively listened and asked questions of my team. It’s a very simple step that can often be overlooked by a new leader. I wanted them to see that it was okay to not know everything and that I didn’t prejudge people or their abilities. I used my sense of humor and outgoing personality to create transparency with them. I let them in on stories about my relationship with my own boss, and kept the mood light, happy, and positive. I also had—and still have—a genuine open-door policy, and often encourage folks to come to me at any time with any ideas they might have.
It’s important to sit down with your team as often as possible and ask them for the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is what helps to keep an open line of communication.
Not only do you need to be confident in yourself as a new leader, but you also need to show confidence in your team’s ability to create solutions. When I started my new position, I told my team that I wasn’t going to tell them what to do—they needed to show me what they were going to do, and not just for me, but for the organization. As a leader, I believe in helping my team develop the skills they need to thrive professionally. After all, some of them may well be running the organization in the future.
It’s important to encourage and boost their confidence in their own abilities by reminding them that no idea is too outrageous to consider. One of my favorite things to tell my employees is that if you want to zig and I want to zag, it’s fine, as long as we get the job done well at the end of the day.
I am committed to my team just as much as they are committed to me. This developed over time, but with a constant stream of communication and mutual respect, commitment comes natural. I also have an open working rapport with my staff, meaning that I don’t place rigid expectations on them, and I try to be flexible with schedules where appropriate. Commitment means trusting your people to do their jobs, do them well, and get results.
When it comes to being a successful leader, I believe it all boils down to trust and respect. If you show your team that you trust and respect them, they will respond similarly. And as my team at Farmers Insurance has demonstrated, they’ll also become more engaged and productive employees. Remember that your team’s engagement is important to your company’s long-term success. They are potentially future leaders, and it’s up to you to teach and guide them, by example, how to bring out the best in all employees. That’s how you demonstrate your ability to surpass the role of manager and become a true leader.