Trust is the state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something. Trust is built and maintained by many small actions over time. Trust is telling the truth, even when it is difficult, and being honest, authentic, and reliable in your dealings with customers and employees. Trust exists on many levels in an organization: with the direct manager, with the leadership, with the team and with the company.
Times are tough and you can’t afford not to have it today, but you will find that it is harder than ever to build and maintain. Employees are increasingly skeptical and daily exposés about ‘leaders’ who clearly are not trustworthy only makes it tougher.
Individuals must have a capacity for trust based on his/her experiences (with the current manager and company as well as with previous employers). The experiences we each have develop or diminish the capacity and willingness to risk trusting others. In the current business environment, there is a continuing decline of trust in companies and leadership overall. Employees watch the news, hear stories and wonder constantly if “it” (being laid off, denied a promotion or raise, having their project stopped, shutting down the company, etc.) is going to happen to them.
Individuals must perceive and believe in the ability of others they work with to perform competently at whatever is needed. During tough times, this belief in others tends to erode especially when communications are lacking concerning how changes impact the organization and success. Couple that with the increasing amount of communication about all the problems in the economy and you quickly have a lopsided equation with the negative far outweighing the positive. Employees are deeply concerned about who is going to be the next company or ‘leader’ exposed in some sort of scandal or unethical behavior.
Lastly, but incredibly important to trust, is a belief that the actions, words, direction, mission, and/or decisions are motivated by mutually-serving rather than self-serving motives. Employees have to know you care about them and are considering their best interests as well as the company’s. During tough times, there is an even greater likelihood that employees will fill in the blanks with negative intentions if they are not getting constant communication about what is going on, how the company will still win and what is in it for them to stay, work hard and remain productivity. In almost every breakroom around the country today, employees are wondering how some leaders and senior managers are asking for and getting multi-million dollar bonuses as they are laying off employees and their businesses are failing by every measure. What kind of beliefs does an individual have to justify that sort of behavior and why would you expect me to believe they will ever consider my interests?
There are critical leadership & management behaviors to build and grow trust in today’s environment:
Act with integrity – Consistently conduct yourself in an honest and trustworthy manner; treat people with respect and dignity; keep your word; remain approachable; set an example for others to follow; protect the interest of all employees; do the right thing for the organization.
Be teamwork oriented – Demonstrate co-operation and trust with colleagues across organizational boundaries; establish strong working relationships to deliver positive results; help to create and maintain a strong feeling of belonging in the team; share expertise, successes, and relevant information with others; identify barriers to teamwork and work with others to overcome them.
Listen- Attend to and convey understanding of the comments and questions of others; remain genuinely interested in what others have to say; suspend your own assumptions and consider various beliefs; have patience to wait for people to finish.
Provide ongoing feedback – Objectively observe, analyze, and share perceptions of other people’s performance to reinforce or redirect behavior to improve performance and business results; provide feedback that is timely, specific, behavioral, balanced, and constructive; realign people/teams quickly; set clear and high expectations and act as if employees are capable of living up to them.
Strive for results – Hold yourself accountable for results and focus on instilling that same attitude and level of action in others; act to realize ever-increasing levels of excellence; seize opportunities as they arise; take ownership for resolving difficult situations; refrain from thinking it can’t be done and focus on how to make it happen.
Focus & prioritize – Determine priorities and give full attention to what is most important; set trivial tasks aside; know what to accomplish on your own and when to involve and delegate to others.
Be self aware – Set high personal standards; know your own strengths and development needs; ask for ongoing feedback and coaching; be willing to admit to and learn from mistakes.
Motivate others positively – Create a climate where people want to do their best; let employees know how important they are to the business; empower others by sharing ownership and visibility; recognize and constantly communicate effectively with others on what it will take to get to the next stage.
Communicate effectively – Communicate constantly and cascade key messages throughout the organization. Communicating includes telling employees where they stand, how the business is doing and what future plans are. Other key messages should include what is staying the same (what can provide a sense of comfort) and why you will still win despite everything else going on in the world. The more transparent you can become, the better. With the increase in social media, transparency in business is expected. Secrecy breeds suspicion. Whenever information is kept close, both the intent and the actual content become open to misinterpretation. Provide as much information as you can comfortably divulge as soon as possible in any situation.
It won’t be easy to recover and rebuild trust in many organizations. Great leaders and managers can do it, but employee skepticism is justifiably at all time high. Are you doing the right things?