Successful businesses are built on relationships, and at the foundation of all relationships is trust.
Without trust for each other and their leaders (you), your team will never truly engage, and your company will never have the kind of culture that drives success. Engaged workers bring creativity and passion to the workplace – two things any business requires to grow.
Of course, you can’t manufacture trust. And if you can’t be trusted, most of what you say and do will be perceived as disingenuous.
A recent study by the Edelman group determined one in three employees don’t trust their employer, and 46 percent don’t trust the organization as a whole. (I’m guessing that number is probably higher than it should be because several of those employees polled probably don’t trust Edelman!)
So how can you build trust in the workplace? Or if you’ve got a positive thing going but you’re not quite there, how can you close that trust gap??
Here are eight things you can do to build trust:
1. HONESTY, IS SUCH A LONELY WORD
It’s not easy sharing information with your people, especially if the news isn’t good. As leaders(and as humans), we have a tendency to believe that delivering bad news will impact other people’s opinion of us.
Fact is, being honest – even during the tough times – is something the most trustworthy leaders learn to do. Whether your company hasn’t met its goals and is unable to award bonuses, or you’ve decided to let a member of the team go, most people respect leaders that are able to openly explain situations, take questions and answer them honestly.
2. ADMIT WHEN YOU SCREW UP
Being transparent about bad news is difficult. Admitting when you caused a mistake can be even more difficult. However, you’ll be surprised to find that employees will like and respect you more for it. Admitting mistakes actually makes you more human. Psychologists call this the Pratfall Effect. When you’re able to admit to and take responsibility for your mistakes, your people will see you as a great leader.
3. JUST ASK
In all the years I’ve coached leaders, I have found the most overlooked strategy for building trusting relationships is also the simplest: Ask! Ask your employees what’s most important to them when it comes to building trust, but don’t stop there. Ask how they prefer to be recognized, find out how they like to receive feedback and how they prefer to communicate. Acknowledging and acting on these preferences will undoubtedly build trust.
4. LISTEN UP!
It’s one thing to ask questions; to gain trust you need to actually listen to the answers. If you’re listening, you can then follow up with questions, creating a meaningful dialogue. The real key to trust comes next…FOLLOW UP WITH ACTION! There’s no better way to reinforce that you’re listening and that you care, than to support your people’s ideas and concerns. If you’re not willing to follow through, you’re better off not even having the discussion.
5. YOU GO FIRST
As Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” If you want your employees to trust you, try trusting them first. Give them a task, even an easy one, and let them complete it on their own. This simple gesture will go a very long way. If your employees believe you will have their back, they will run through walls for you.
Ask Aretha Franklin, the simplest path to increased trust is respect. It’s respectful recognition of accomplishments and transparency around failure. It’s a connection between leaders and teams. It doesn’t cost anything, but cultivating respect takes time – and each person in your organization needs to make that time. Practicing daily “respect habits,” like listening with care, making eye contact and acknowledging your flaws, will drive engagement and ultimately performance
7. DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL
For an insecure leader, every employee is a threat. Any mistake or performance struggle becomes an opportunity to make the leader “look bad,” so there’s no chance that leader will trust employees to do the job well. This kind of thinking drives selfish, bad behavior and creates an unsafe workplace culture. Trust only exists in a fear-free environment. That means every leader needs to work on their own fear issues before they can focus on building the team instead of their own ego. The first step is making yourself vulnerable and asking for feedback.
8. LEAD WITH INTEGRITY
You can demonstrate you are trustworthy as a leader by keeping your word – simple as that. Let them see your integrity. Walk the Talk. Show them you are leading in alignment with your personal values and the values of the organization. Reward others who act with integrity.