Effective leadership promotes trust in the workplace. Without trust there is nothing to build on and no one to count on. This quality is the foundation stone upon which everything rests. It has its source in the honesty, benevolence and competence of the others. “Trust is a feeling of being comfortable, relaxed and unguarded around another” says Integro, an international consulting firm specializing in interpersonal trust.
Amy Lyman of the Great Place to Work Institute, points out that trust has the following characteristics:
Employees want to know that their leaders are speaking the truth; that their actions are consistent with their words and that they are ethical in their business practices.
Employees experience respect when:
- They receive support for personal growth
- Their ideas are taken seriously
- They feel cared for both within and outside the organization
This leadership characteristic applies to:
- Pay benefits
- Career development
- Just resolution of differences
Lyman cites Continental Airlines as one company where, during a difficult time, trust ‘carried the day’. Continental has had a long history of good relations with their employees. Levels of confidence were high when Continentals’ 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. Leadership listened and accepted the employee’s rationale. No one lost their job.
Several principles of trust are brilliantly exemplified here. The employees had confidence in their leader’s ability to ‘hear them out’ and this gave them the creative mind-set necessary, to formulate a creative solution. Because the employees had a history of being listened to, they took the initiative to collectively brainstorm and find a solution. The level of care was high between the employees and the leadership, and consequently a satisfactory solution was reached.
Dave Bowman, a Human Resource expert, states five ways for a leader to build company 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-solution phase.
- Follow a clear vision and communicate it clearly to your employees. This helps staff see that you are competent and convincing in your direction, and they will become your loyal devotees in helping everyone reach their goals.
- 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 utilizing 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.
- Stress the fact that the company’s goals are every one’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.
- 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.
Trust is an attribute that cannot be over-estimated in the workplace. The bottom line and every one’s well-being depends upon it. Effective leadership will always find a way to build trust at work.