“My employer” was named by 75% of those surveyed worldwide as the most trusted institution in the recently released 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. These findings from the annual report, now in its 19th year, compared to trust in NGOs (57%), business (56%), government (48%) and media (47%). The report’s press release also pointed to a shift (for individuals) “ . . . to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers.”
What an opportunity for leaders to seize the day and build even greater levels of trust in the organization.
As a leader, being trustworthy is about:
- Deserving confidence
- Doing what you say you will do (being dependable)
- Being approachable and friendly (people trust leaders they like).
- Showing support for your team members, even when they make mistakes.
- Balancing the need for results with being considerate of others and their feelings.
- Working hard to win over people by being respectful of their ideas and perspectives.
- Ensuring that your words and actions match. Not just some of the time—all the time
A Shared Definition to Trust
To define trust, we also need to go beyond these practical kinds of considerations. A deeper version involves more of an emotional response. This includes feelings for employers such as knowing that leaders are on “their side,” they will be treated fairly and with respect and setbacks will be viewed favorably or at least not with particularly negative consequences.
Both sides of the trust coin impact a leader’s ability to inspire and motivate employees. 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 in the workplace 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 6 ways that leaders at all levels can build trust in the workplace by aligning actions with words:
1. 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.
2. 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 trust as a leader.
3. Be quiet sometimes
Actively listen and check for understanding by paraphrasing what you’ve heard. Use a variety of feedback tools to ensure everyone has the chance for their voice to be heard. You must engage in dialogue with employees, giving them the opportunity to ask questions, get answers, and voice concerns. Then, apply what your internal stakeholders share for future actions.
4. Be consistent
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.
5. 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.
6. 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 build trust in the workplace with your employees?
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