Trust is the foundation of strong leadership. As simple as that may sound, it’s the truth.
Building trust, on the other hand, takes a lot of effort and time, and because organizations are made up of people, the responsibility falls to the senior leadership team to commit to unwaveringly role-model, not role-play, behaviours that earn you the right to be seen as trustworthy.
With trust as the principal currency in the workplace, everyone wins. Through trust, you foster credibility, loyalty, and mutual respect, employees feel motivated to build authentic relationships, are committed to their leaders, and remain accountable through a sense of ownership to take pride in the work they do.
Trust facilitates ideas in the workplace and encourages everyone to share feedback in a safe space. When you have trust, you are open to entertaining different perspectives, capable of listening to various voices and making room at the table for others. When trusted, people feel empowered to work from the heart and contribute to the company’s shared vision.
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Ways to foster trust
Consistently lead by example
To foster trust, leaders must strive to build consistency. Too often, senior leaders set expectations of others that they are not willing to embrace. They eschew the regular one-on-ones and quarterly check-ins, for example, and let the responsibility fall on the shoulders of HR business partners and middle managers to provide feedback. Such practices create a disconnect and send a message that leadership is distant and out of touch.
“Do as I say, not as I do” might be the philosophy of some leaders but effective leaders won’t subscribe to this. Rather, they set an example for their staff; in other words, they “walk the talk”. Uncommon leaders consistently support their staff, help them understand what it takes to realistically achieve their goals, and provide constructive feedback and the resources necessary to help them along the way.
Furthermore, these leaders hold themselves accountable first, they keep their word and acknowledge their limitations. They’re also not afraid to admit when they fail or make a mistake. By setting this precedent, they encourage others to take chances to learn without the fear of retribution, become more confident, and inspire trust.
Be like glue and water
Trust is like glue, when it exists in an organization, people are bound together to a common vision yet still courageous enough to embrace different ideologies. They understand that differences spark creativity and innovation and encourage people to weigh in so they buy in more readily to others’ ideas.
Trust is also like water, permeating throughout the organization’s virtual and physical hallways and boardrooms, like a source that gives life to conversations and ideas and helps remove impurities caused by bias and divisiveness.
When trust flows, it encourages fairness and facilitates equity. When leaders challenge bias they remain open to learning and hearing different ideas, recognizing that while diversity is a fact, inclusion is an intentional choice they make to embrace other perspectives. This produces a sense of physiological safety where employees can share feedback without fear of reprisal from managers and senior leaders.
Encourage transparent and clear communication
When communication is clear and honest, staff feel safer talking about obstacles and challenges and aren’t afraid to take steps to address them appropriately. Feedback loops become a way to receive clear guidance and an opportunity to learn and grow, which in turn encourages employees to further contribute and bolster belief in their capabilities and what they have to offer.
Walk with empathy
Great leaders show their humanity by learning to listen so they can learn about others, show compassion, and lead with heart. Whenever possible, they provide a thoughtful response, appreciating individual staff members and getting to know them on a personal level so they can create a positive bond. As a result of this validation, employees increase their sense of self-worth and become more connected to their work.
Practice good faith
In a hybrid world, it’s important to remain engaged and trust others to do work when and how they can. Gone are the days of your manager dropping into your office to check in on you but the need to trust is no less a requirement of our new flexible workplace.
Yet with so many distractions, it can be difficult to stay focused on work. According to the results of one survey, 48% of employers attribute low productivity to distractions from social media and smartphones, which causes a slip in morale due to missed deadlines. With such stats, it’s easy for managers to lose trust and micromanage, even virtually. The better approach: communicate effective policies, build flexibility, and help employees set healthy boundaries between home and work life.
Learn and grow
With more generations working simultaneously in the workforce, leaders must shift their attention to developing other leaders, after all, it’s the main objective of any leader. Make it easy to share knowledge and turn conversations into an opportunity to learn. Encourage a space where people help others grow by maximizing corporate intellectual assets and pairing senior and junior staff members to promote peer-to-peer coaching and mentoring.
Managers can also encourage employees to schedule some time each month to log on to the company’s learning management system and enrol in various training opportunities. And because leaders are readers, it never hurts to establish a corporate book club or virtual library where employees can stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and workplace best practices. A learning workplace offers employees direct access to the professional development they need to succeed, which results in higher quality work being completed on time and within budget.
Recognize, praise and reward exemplary behaviour
When employees demonstrate exemplary behaviour, call it out. Whether you send an email to the team or spotlight their efforts in an internal publication or at an employee gathering, whenever possible, recognize and praise good behaviour to reinforce the like and create an incentive for others to follow suit. This establishes fairness and demonstrates that anyone can do a good job and get rewarded for it. Exemplary employees become ambassadors, living, and modelling a company’s core values and vision in the work they do.
Tell the Story
Use a company’s social media profile to develop and market its brand when recruiting new hires. When celebrating a philanthropic or community engagement, recent client success stories or an internal social event, moderate and encourage employees to tell their stories — after all, they will be your greatest ambassadors. This helps foster the notion of trust as glue and water to the organization.
Bringing it All Together
To ensure trust remains a pillar in your organization, understand that it starts from the top and trickles downstream. That’s why as a leader, you must role model behaviours that align with your core values to bring employees on board with your vision. When you lead by example and demonstrate the same behaviour you expect of others, you will earn respect for walking the talk and continuously raising the bar for yourself and your staff.
Employees are proud when their organization is successful and when they work in an environment where corporate values are practiced in the daily culture. With job satisfaction and trust comes loyalty, which lets employees work from the heart to deliver optimal results, something very critical in a hybrid workspace.
In the end, trust is the foundational pillar of the organization and when everyone works together to foster it, we all win.
Ask me how I can help you develop trust by increasing your emotional intelligence
Learning the behaviours that help you build trust is a critical component of becoming a more emotionally intelligent leader. To learn how to develop your EQ, build healthier habits, and lead with clarity, ask me how I can help.