The Mechanics Behind Building Trust With Your Engineering Team

Written by Divine Odazie

September 29, 2021

Building trust with your team is key to your success as an engineering manager. If you want your team to develop innovative solutions, take risks, and feel like they’re free to speak their minds, then trust is the answer. 

But how do you build trust with your team? 

This article will cover:

Why building trust with your engineering team is important

In his book “The Trust Factor,” Paul Zak — a neuroscientist, proved that trust could truly make or break whether an employee wants to stay in a company. He cited that a 10% increase in employees’ trust with their leaders creates the same levels of work engagement as a 36% salary increase. 

Looking at those stats, you can see that trust with your team affects your effectiveness as their manager, affecting their output as a team. 

Strategies to build trust with your team

1. Be transparent with your team

Transparency with your team refers to an environment where you communicate openly and honestly with your team, fostering a culture in which information flows freely between you, the team, and other departments.

Transparency fosters trust, encourages creativity, and promotes healthy teams. Engineers will be more interested in their work and more creative in solving problems if they are informed about what is going on with their team. On the other hand, a lack of open communication might breed mistrust and jeopardize your team’s projects.

One great example is email transparency at Stripe.

Stripe implemented open email inboxes. The idea was that if everyone at Stripe automatically knew what was happening, they needed fewer meetings, and coordination was more fluid and more painless. While this may not apply in your company, it clearly shows how transparency improves trust.

Sharing your wins, decisions, failures, and challenges is also part of being transparent. Sharing your mistakes is more difficult than sharing your successes, but it has the potential to strengthen your team’s trust in you. Rather than sugarcoating things, tell your team how you failed, why you failed, and what you plan to do going forward.

2. Give your team autonomy

In most of our blog posts, we’ve highlighted autonomy in one way or the other. This is because autonomy is crucial for engineers, and they need it to work without being micromanaged.

To build trust with your team, you have to give your engineers autonomy. Autonomy will help your team be more motivated and invested in the project as they make decisions that affect their work.

A good way to give your team autonomy is by implementing Agile methodologies — like we discussed how the good of Scrum gives engineers autonomy over their tasks, time, and technique. Applying methods like Scrum gives your engineers enough freedom for creativity and innovation. 

You should also make sure that your team knows the expectations and standards, and you regularly communicate that with them.

All this can be summarized to say if you, as the engineering manager, trust your engineers with their tasks, time, and technique, they will trust you to guide them, which will make you a more effective engineering manager.

3. Encourage feedback from your team

As an engineering manager, you spend a lot of time giving feedback (positive or negative) either during one-on-one meetings or general team meetings.

What about receiving feedback from your team? 

There are some ways to encourage feedback from your team. One is to ask them “how can they better serve their purpose at the company,” “what do they want out of the job,” and “what would make them happy in their career.” Also, acknowledging that you can be wrong sometimes, allowing them to give you specific feedback on your decisions. 

Another thing you can do is ask for their opinion on new ideas that you bring up during meetings or group discussions. 

Lastly, you can also encourage your team by following through on commitments during team meetings or after one-on-one conversations.

Conclusion

Your team trusting you is key to your success as an engineering manager. In this article, you saw three strategies to keep in mind when fostering with your team. 

To end with a quote, “without trust, you don’t truly collaborate; you merely coordinate or, at best, cooperate. It is trust that transforms a group of people into a team.” – Stephen R. Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

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