Effective leaders must understand how building trust in the workplace creates a successful organization. Without building trust, your leadership and your organization lose credibility, respect and fairness. This quality is the foundation stone where your leadership needs to rest.
Building trust has its source in the honesty, benevolence and competence of the others. Trust is a feeling; it means being comfortable, relaxed and unguarded around another. Once you learn the methodology for building trust, your employees will find your leadership as a strength to lean on.
Amy Lyman of the Great Place to Work Institute describes how building trust requires three characteristics:
The first step in building trust is always speaking the truth, and employees want to know that of their leader. They look for your actions to be consistent with your words. They need to see how you can be ethical in your business and personal practices.
The second step in building trust is respecting people. Your employees are looking to experience respect from your leadership from:
- Receiving your support for their personal growth
- Listening and taking their ideas seriously
- Knowing that you care about their well being both personally and in regards to their role in the organization
The third step in building trust, involves the leadership characteristic of being non-judgmental and fair to employees:
- Fairness for their pay benefits
- Leaving politics out of their career development
- Not choosing sides during conflict resolution
Building trust through leadership has many examples. Continental Airlines is one leading company where during a difficult time, leadership trust made the difference for the company. Continental has a long history of good relations with their employees and that started with building trust from the top of the organization. Confidence levels of staff were high even when Continental’s baggage handlers were threatened with lay-offs in the mid 1990’s.
Because these employees trusted their leaders to listen to their suggestions and because they cared for each other, the employees proposed that they all work part-time so no one would need to be laid off. They had been building trust long enough that Continental’s employees knew that their leaders would listen to their ideas.
It was through mutual respect and knowing the fairness of this idea, that Continental’s leadership had the credibility to work with their employees to get through this tough time. No one lost their job!
Building trust takes time but it helps to have it’s foundation when a crisis occurs. In this case, the employees had confidence in their leader’s ability to ‘hear them out’. This gave them the creative mind-set necessary to formulate a creative solution. Because Continental had a history of building trust and listening to employees, the workers knew that they could take the initiative to collectively come up with a solution.
When you care enough about your employees to listen and they know you’ll hear them, it makes finding a solution a matter of process. Building trust in this example required all the three steps outlined above for the leadership and employee relationship.
A Human Resource expert I’ve known for a long time always tells me there are 5 ways for a leader to start building trust:
- Integrity and Building Trust – Establish integrity by always keeping promises and telling the truth. Employees respect you when they know that they can count on what you say. It takes courage to tell the truth especially when the news is painful. In the long run, the truth is much less painful as it permits individuals to begin dealing with the hard facts and get right into the problem-solving phase.
- Vision and Building Trust – Follow a clear vision and communicate it clearly to your employees. This helps them see that you are competent and convincing in your direction, and they will become your loyal followers in helping you get there.
- Teamwork and Building Trust – Emphasize that everyone is an important part of the team. Provide lots of opportunity for employee feedback and demonstrate that you value their contribution by using their suggestions wherever possible. Have an open door policy where employees have access to you. This will go a long way in demonstrating your seriousness about including them.
- Setting Goals and Building Trust – Stress the fact that the company’s goals are everyone’s goals. Follow this tenet and help each employee to buy into the same. Too much emphasis on personal goals may serve to promote fragmentation whereas shared company goals serve to build cohesiveness and trust.
- Ethics and Building Trust – Have a clear sense of right and wrong. Stay consistent and do not give way to opportunistic expediency. Doing the right thing even when it is unpopular will garner employee respect and ultimately establish trust.
Building trust is a leadership process that cannot be over-estimated in the workplace. When your bottom line and everyone’s well-being depends upon it, being an effective leader means always finding a way to foster this timeless quality.