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Trust: a happy and loyal team is not as hard as you think

Employee turnover sucks. Be it your decision to move someone along or the individual's decision to get the heck out. Regardless of who made the decision, it can be taxing on the team members left behind. Of course, some turnover is good—fresh ideas and an opportunity for others to pick up new responsibilities.

While the ability to successfully manage through turnover is a trait necessary for any good leader, there is something better—having a fiercely loyal and high-performing team. One where “turnover” means being promoted up instead of out.

Don't put your team at the mercy of less-than-stellar leadership. With the right people dynamics, a bit of motivation, and a lot of trust, you'll control the turnover and have a happy and loyal team to work with. And trust me, it's not as hard as you think.

      Have consistent one-on-one check-ins

      Be it weekly or biweekly, make time for your employees. Let them have your undivided attention, listen to them, and see what comes up. It's helpful to have a shared documentation space for mutual notes and follow-up items. Google Docs allow you to jointly add discussion items and keep you on track from the previous meeting.

      Understand their motivation, as it’s likely much different than yours

      Getting to the root of what motivates an employee on an individual level will help you tailor your coaching in much more effective ways. Consider a tool like the Motivational Pie Chart. Use it for new hires and check in on the progress every quarter. One of my teams dubbed the tool—"The Wheel Of Happiness"—

      Focus on the good and have people do more of it

      It’s a lot easier to amplify the good qualities in an employee then it is to change the bad ones. Are they uber detailed? Then put them on an analytics project. Do they glow in front of a crowd? Then find more speaking opportunities for them.

      Change is hard. Just think about the last time you tried to change something “bad” about yourself (lose weight, stop smoking, or stop procrastinating)—how quickly did change happen and how hard was it? Having a boss tell you to change something about yourself is unlikely to be very motivational, or to create any meaningful change.

      Be honest and as open as you can

      It's impossible to share 100% of everything you learn as a leader with 100% of your staff. Instead, give highlights of important executive offsite meetings, or nonconfidential insight into potential product shifts. Help folks feel engaged and in the know. Help them to trust you.

      There is often an air of mystery and a lack of transparency that builds when leaders are not proactively sharing information.


      Being a leader does not mean having all the answers or knowing all the details. It’s easy (and risky) to make assumptions about what people want or why they did something. Listen to them and get the facts. Then ask questions and listen again.

      Give direct open feedback

      Be fair and be kind—but mostly, just be clear and honest. You’ll do damage to the relationship when you cloud what you're trying to say with buzzwords and manager jargon.

      Praise publicly, give constructive feedback privately

      It’s difficult to do things perfectly. Your version of perfect is probably different than it is for one of your team members. But never identify a person's imperfection in public; never call them out in front of a crowd. It puts the employee on the defensive and makes you look like a poor leader.

      Give people room to fail and support them through it. People make mistakes, but it will go a long way if you leave the constructive criticism to the coaching room. But when you see something good? Make sure that everyone sees and hears it too.

      Coach them, but don’t solve for them

      Guide employees and then let them struggle a bit. This will help them learn and grow in all new ways. You may be pleasantly surprised when they solve the task in a more efficient and effective way than you ever considered.

      Just say "thank you"

      Every employee loves to hear: Thank you for a good week of work. Thank you for that presentation you gave today. Thank you for helping Bob with that project. Yes, you are thanking them for doing the job they were hired to do, but it’s a lot more fun to work hard for someone who notices you are doing a good job. Gratitude also inspires people to excel in their role,

We as leaders can do a lot to make our teams strong. At the core, a team that trusts you is a team that is willing and wanting to be dedicated and loyal. And here's the easiest part—as Dr. Heidi Halvorson says,"To get your employees to trust you, be someone they can always count on to do the right thing. After all, this is ultimately what trust is actually about."

Ayala Levine is the Director of Customer Advocacy, Global Product Support at Zendesk. She is an avid traveler/adventurer who lives in Berkeley, CA with her rescue dog Jesse. Her life's motto is she'll try anything at least twice. Find her on LinkedIn.