A leader’s ability to inspire and motivate employees is based on trust. When people trust you, they have confidence in your decisions. Even in uncertainty, they will be influenced by your leadership. That is because they expect you to do what you say you’ll do.
Aligning your words and actions is a key pillar for building trust and, ultimately, for an organization’s success. We often find employees say that what leaders say and do has the most impact on their perception of an organization. When there is a disconnect between a leader’s words and actions, employees are less likely to become engaged and committed to the organization.
Actions matter most if you want to earn employees’ trust and engage them in the organization. Starting with the leader, it takes involvement at every level to create a deep bond of believability that motivates employees to put forth effort needed to make their organization successful.
Here are six ways that leaders at all levels can build trust by aligning actions with words:
Recognize that building trust takes hard work.
Trust must be earned. It comes from conscious effort to walk your talk, keep your promises and align your behavior with your values. Building trust is worth the effort because once trust is lost, it can be very difficult to recover.
Be honest and supportive.
Even when it’s difficult, tell the truth and not just what you think people want to hear. Understand what employees need to know and communicate facts while being considerate of their effort and sensitive to their feelings. Showing support and understanding for your team members, even when mistakes are made. It goes a long way in building trusting relationships.
Commit to follow through.
Even the best-intended talk is hollow if not followed by corresponding action. Say you’ll do something only if you are able to follow through, and don’t commit if there is a chance you won’t be able to deliver. Breaking a commitment can destroy trust you’ve built as well as make people less inclined to trust you in the future.
Consistently doing what you say you’ll do builds trust over time – it can’t be something you do only occasionally. Keeping commitments must be the essence of your behavior, in all relationships, day after day and year after year.
Model the behavior you seek.
Nothing speaks more loudly about the culture of an organization than the leader’s behavior, which influences employee action and has the potential to drive their results. If you say teamwork is important, reinforce the point by collaborating across teams and functions. Give credit when people do great work and you’ll set the stage for an appreciative culture.
Build in accountability.
When you and other leaders acknowledge your mistakes as well as successes, employees see you as credible and will follow your lead. You can encourage honest dialogue and foster accountability by building in processes that become part of the culture, such as an evaluation of every project (positives, negatives, things to change) or a status report and next steps in each meeting agenda (tracking deadlines and milestones).
Is there a disconnect between what you’re saying and your actions? How could you use these steps to improve trust among employees?
- David Grossman
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