Building Trust with Your Employees
Trust is critical in any relationship—we all know that. And the workplace is no exception. As a small business owner with multiple direct reports, you know how important it is to the success of your business that your employees trust you. Harvard Business Review found that “In our coaching with leaders, we often see that trust is a leading indicator of whether others evaluate them positively or negatively.”
Successful managers have a staff that would go to bat for them, will always put their best face forward, and are a true representative of your brand. The hard part is, there is no true indicator of whether your employees actually do trust you. There are, however, steps you can take to make sure they see you as a leader they can lean on.
If you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. One key way to build trust among your employees is to ensure your actions match your words. This will take time, but it’s a surefire way to show your staff you are deserving of their confidence. You also need to take care to model the behavior you expect of them, since your employees look up to your leadership and will take cues from your actions. Be consistent with your feedback, praise, constructive criticism, and behavior, and your staff will trust you to be a reliable and fair employer.
Listening and reacting appropriately and at the proper time is another way leaders work to establish trust with their staff. Just as we urge business owners to respond to the positive and negative feedback they receive from customers, the same goes for management. Take the time to hear your staff out—they are the boots on the ground and are closer to the inside politics of your employees, so their feedback is incredibly valuable. Being a great listener means being attentive and actively listening. To prove your staffers’ voices are heard, sum up what they just told you and then take the necessary steps to address the situation in the way that makes the most sense.
This isn’t counter-productive to our above tip of “just listening.” Workers today are at an all-time low when it comes to positive feelings about job security, and that’s a big sign there are some trust issues afoot. A new poll reported on by SHRM found that almost 50 percent of U.S. workers are scared they will lose their jobs, having what researchers have labeled “layoff anxiety.” In this highly charged environment, it’s typical for staffers to be on edge—and on the defense. To combat these fears, be transparent with your workers, especially if your workforce is small and rumors tend to spread quickly. Communicate to them often the good, the bad, and the ugly. They’ll trust that you’ll be open if there is anything worth sharing, and they’ll know you’re looking out for their best interests.
Without trust, it’s nearly impossible to be a good—or effective—leader. You want your staff to be focused on doing the best job they can do, not searching for another job or worrying about how you’ll react to negative feedback. By following the actions we’ve outlined above, you will be able to build on the trust you already have with your employees. And if you’re in a situation in which your credibility needs a little repair, these steps can also get you back on solid ground.