It Starts With Leaders

Anthony T. Eaton 04/13/2017

Trust is the foundation of any relationship and that goes for

workplace relationships as well. If you have ever worked with or for someone you can’t trust it is not only challenging but a major roadblock to engagement.

One of the hardest things a leader has to do is build trust amongst those that work for and with them as well as being a catalyst for trust between them and their peers. While trust cannot be forced or mandated, it can be encouraged and fostered. Creating an environment of trust is the keystone that supports everything else related to it.

Lack of trust will not only destroy a team and reputations but also impact engagement and productivity. When there is a lack of trust individuals are constantly focused on self-preservation instead of achieving goals and moving things forward. The effects will extend beyond the individual, group, and department and infect the entire organization resulting in alienation between interdependent groups and departments. So how does a leader influence trust to prevent the negativity and destruction that comes with dis-trust? Here are some suggestions.

Set the Example

Employees look to leaders to set the example for how they should behave and interact. Poor behavior on the part of leaders sends the message that it is ok and acceptable. If a leader does not trust their peers, direct reports or leadership they are setting the tone for those that look to them as an example. Actions and word speak volumes and it is important to know when some things are better-left un-said.

Be Transparent

Transparency is all about open communication. Part of setting an example is being as open and honest with people as you can. This includes letting people know when you can’t share details. Employees respect leaders who give them the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is vulnerability in being transparent because it requires trust but you can’t expect trust and transparency from others unless you are willing to give it.

Build a Connection

It is easy to distrust someone we don’t know; to make assumptions about motivations and agenda’s. In contrast, it’s easier to trust when we really get to know someone on a personal level. Leaders need to get to know their employees, not in an intrusive way, but in a way that expresses interest. When you know someone’s family, background and value’s you can better understand their perspective and make connections.  When leaders make connections they can foster an environment and encourage others to do the same.

Create an Environment

We all want to feel safe when sharing information and letting people get close to us. There is a vulnerability to sharing in the workplace relationships that is unique from others. Leaders must create an environment that is safe, where employees feel comfortable to share. Leaders must keep confidences unless it is something that requires them to do otherwise. In those instances being honest in the requirement to disclose or take action will serve well in maintaining the environment of trust. Betrayal of confidence is the surest and quickest way to destroy it.

Address Things

There should be no surprises. Perception is reality and we all know where the road paved with good intentions lead. If you feel someone has done something that brings their trust into question you owe it to them and yourself to address it; but in a way that assumes their intention were in the right place. We never know how our words or actions may be preserved and should not assume that others know our intent or that we know theirs.

Talk about Trust

Leaders set the tone and so they should opening discuss trust with their teams. What are your expectations and what can they expect from you? Never assume that your expectations or definition of what it means is known or understood by others unless you articulate it.

Building trust takes time and work, but it can be destroyed in an instant of miss-understanding. To be trusted, we must trust others and accept that it is imperfect at best.