Without Trust, You Can’t Lead

2 Minutes Read

Building trust with your employees is good for your business. When people trust their leader—and, by extension, the organization he or she leads—they are more engaged in their work. Morale is higher, productivity is greater and turnover tends to occur far less often.

Sometimes a trusting relationship is hard to establish, particularly with employees who feel “burned” by past experiences (either with your business or at other times in their careers). It’s always the leader’s responsibility to take the first step toward building that trust, by announcing concrete actions and following through on them. Follow-through and delivery are critically important. After two or three situations where a leader visibly backs up words with actions, employee distrust starts to break down and a bond takes form. If a leader fails to follow through more than once or twice, he will remain suspect in employees’ eyes, with little chance for redemption.

Here are steps you can take to build trust with the people you lead:

  1. Be credible. Employees are quick to perceive a leader who’s driven by a personal agenda, rather than by what’s important for the organization. By contrast, a leader who consistently demonstrates dedication and competence is deemed worthy of trust, particularly if he or she is seen as having the employees’ best interests at heart.
  2. Be accessible. The people who work for you are just that—people. In addition to their job duties, they have families, activities, personal stories of triumph and disappointment. The more you can know them and their history, the closer they’ll feel to you. As much as possible, approach employees to discuss issues and concerns, rather than wait for them to come to you. Not only does this make you “more human” in their eyes, and more deserving of their trust, but you can also maintain a better sense of what’s happening on the front-line—which is usually where good morale and quality customer service are most critical.
  3. Avoid micro-managing. If you’ve hired well, your employees know how to do their jobs. Let them do the work they’re responsible for without constantly looking over their shoulders. Allow them to offer fresh ideas about innovating your products or services.
  4. Be fair. Trust happens when employees see consistent judgments and actions across the board. A trustworthy leader doesn’t play favorites and treats everyone in the same manner.
  5. Show respect. Everyone within the organization is contributing to its growth and success. Whatever their position, they deserve your respect. A leader shows respect by actively soliciting input regarding an impending decision, or by offering additional resources and training so people can sharpen their job performance.
  6. Take blame, where appropriate. If a team project doesn’t work or monthly numbers are down, don’t look for culprits. Employees will grow to trust a leader who is willing to take responsibility when expectations fall short (even if he or she isn’t personally to blame).
  7. Share credit. Conversely, praise your workforce for their efforts and achievements. Employees trust a leader who recognizes success is a team effort, not an opportunity for him or her to steal the spotlight.
  8. Encourage constructive debate. Conflict and confrontation happen from time to time. Use these opportunities to build trust by encouraging discussion that’s objective, rather than emotional, and geared toward problem-solving instead of useless finger-pointing.

Trust is, of course, a two-way street. You have to be able to trust the people who work for you and your business. But the journey toward establishing that trust must always begin with you, the leader.

If you’re ready to ready to grow as a leader and actively inspire the people who work for you, join other CEOs, managers and senior-level executives in a confidential group setting where you’ll be challenged and rewarded like never before in your professional life. Learn more about becoming a Catapult Group member today.

Brad Mishlove