5 Leadership Actions to Build Trust With Those Who Serve Customers

5 Leadership Actions to Build Trust With Those Who Serve Customers

Today’s guest post is from Donald Hicks, a Silicon Valley tech executive, industry thought leader, consumer experience architect, and operations veteran whom I had the pleasure of interviewing recently. Donald was a guest on the live-streaming video version of my podcast (click here to view it on LinkedIn). Be sure to subscribe here to get this episode delivered straight to your inbox in a few weeks when it airs.


Customer experience employees are at the frontlines of every company. They are the often the first, last, or only touchpoint a consumer has with a brand. Being on a CX team demands a high standard of grit, resilience, and trust.

Just in 2020 alone, my team at Twitter had to tackle drills, meetings, and pivots in response to real-time historical moments:

      • A global pandemic
      • The #BlackLivesMatter movement
      • The 2020 U.S. election

    Much of what we needed to resolve as a CX team hadn’t been done before. We had no option but to lean on a foundation of trust built when making critical decisions. Without it, we left the door open for misalignment, a poor user experience, and a crumbling internal team.Fostering trust on a CX team is non-negotiable. But trust can’t be built on polite smiles and forced happy hours. Here are the five leadership actions to build trust across teams.

    Lead By Example, Even When It’s Unpopular

    To lead a team that trusts you, you must first lead by example.

    The best piece of advice I can give is to embrace the bold. Be bold when challenging ideas, and be bold with your generosity. When you say something, mean it and plan to back it up. Often, boldness will look heroic, but much more often, boldness will hold people accountable, do the right thing instead of the popular thing, and provide hard truths instead of inflated insights.

    Here’s why it matters: boldness shocks the system and challenges the status quo. It recharges teams to think critically in a new way and serve their customers most effectively. Your team doesn’t grow with passiveness; your team thrives with palpable passion.

    The best piece of advice I can give is to embrace the bold. Be bold when challenging ideas, and be bold with your generosity. -- @DHicks, Former VP Global Ops @Twitter #leadership Click To Tweet

    Remember To Serve Your Team and Customers Authentically

    A team should be able to trust your intentions as a leader. Leading from a place of conviction means you’ve decided to prioritize honesty and authenticity over optics and office politics. Your actions should assure them that you’re making decisions that are best for the company and team. This confidence will be especially vital for the team when facing critical decisions or external crises.

    To serve from a place of intention, you must understand your why and your team members. This will require openness, space for psychological safety, and empowering collaboration over competition.

    Encourage your team by actively listening, engaging with their ideas and feedback, and rewarding based on merit. Further, regularly check-in with yourself to see who is driving your leadership decisions and course-correct back to the mission.

    Encourage your team by actively listening, engaging with their ideas and feedback, and rewarding based on merit. -- @DHicks, Former VP Global Ops @Twitter Click To Tweet

    Provide Strength Through Transparency

    Like many, I’ve found myself listening to more Brene Brown over the last year. Her relationship with vulnerability and courage is inspiring to countless individuals. A lesson she continues to reaffirm for me is the power of transparency.

    Whether providing feedback to a team member or delivering a progress report that won’t “wow” any of the key stakeholders, transparency is vital to building a solid foundation of trust. As a CX leader, you can’t afford to forget that you’re here to serve your team and drive the company’s mission, not your own. Too often, managers will forget to think about long-term sustainability and scalability in the name of staying with the in-crowd and compromise a team’s credibility in the process.

    It’s important to hold all players and stakeholders accountable for their actions, for their deliverables, and for the workplace culture, they either add to or take away from. This means coaching your star-player when they do “miss the throw” and investing more of yourself and resources into the introverted rookie that leadership isn’t asking about.

    It’s important to hold all players and stakeholders accountable for their actions, for their deliverables, and for the workplace culture, they either add to or take away from. -- @DHicks, Former VP Global Ops @Twitter Click To Tweet

    Don’t Pretend To Have All The Answers

    One of the fastest ways to deteriorate trust with a team is to pretend to know it all.

    Each of us possesses a fresh perspective that only we can have; trust is the relational currency that will get ideas out of our heads and onto paper. At my alma mater, Clark-Atlanta, we had a mantra, “Each one, teach one.” Our school encouraged us to teach each other and foster collaboration and denounced the idea of gatekeeping in the name of self-interest.

    Foster an open space where team members can share ideas freely, and feedback can be welcomed with interest. Encourage your team to speak-up and strengthen the internal relationships so that opportunities aren’t going unchecked.

    After all, you hired or inherited a team deemed contemptible to execute your decisions and strategies. Trust the team to have the brilliant ideas and answers that you hired them for.

    Foster an open space where team members can share ideas freely, and feedback can be welcomed with interest. -- @DHicks, Former VP Global Ops @Twitter Click To Tweet

    Delegate, Empower, Illuminate

    If I could leave the business world and every CX leader with one idea, it would be the phrase, “Delegate, empower, illuminate.” Past its concise packaging is a greater message.

    Trust is built through successful delegation. When we delegate the projects and tasks to team members, they are empowered to lean into their strengths and given space to develop as a professional and an individual.

    The exchange of trust leads to empowerment. Now you have a team member who feels encouraged and supported in their pursuits. Once a bond is built, you both have something to lose: trust. And it is that commitment that will drive their best efforts.

    And it’s that effort and commitment that allows them to illuminate and bring their best work to customers. From answering the phone to resolving dire requests, CX builds trust with customers by trusting their team and leaders first.


     

    Donald Hicks is a Silicon Valley tech executive, industry thought leader, consumer experience architect, and operations veteran. Creating harmony between unparalleled consumer experiences, and operational strategies is where Donald’s passion lies! Donald most recently served as V.P. Operations at Twitter, overseeing CX, content moderation enforcement, product support engineering, data analytics, and more. He understands the hidden power that lies within dreamers and the responsibility we have to empower all people while fostering a sense of belonging. His relentless pursuit in shaping the way we approach and improve technology platforms has led to his distinct leadership style and unmatched success at tech heavyweights such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and now Airbnb.

  • Interested in hearing more from Donald Hicks? You can find him on Medium, where he writes content sharing his great insights.

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