Trust is the great difference maker in business. When people trust you they buy from you. When people trust you they support you. When they trust your company they work harder for you, are engaged and produce better work. Trust starts as an emotion and turns into a feeling.
There is a huge difference in the performance of employees at high trust companies vs. low-trust companies. According to Harvard Business Review,, "people at high-trust companies report 74 percent less stress, 106 percent more energy at work, 50 percent higher productivity, 13 percent fewer sick days, 76 percent more engagement, 29 percent more satisfaction with their lives [and] 40 percent less burnout," compared with people at low-trust compoanies.
We all want and need that. Every company and leader should strive for it. Here are seven very actionable steps that leaders can take that will build organizational trust:
1. Be Transparent
“Ninety-six percent of employees who work for high trust companies — say their leaders make decisions that are consistent, predictable and transparent. While only 29 percent say the same for low trust companies.” - Interaction Associates
Transparency is the easiest principle to apply. Just tell people stuff. Don’t hide knowledge or plans or information. By being transparent people will feel like you trust them. Trust is reciprocal. As companies and leaders share information, trust grows.
2. Be Vulnerable
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” - Brené Brown
When you are vulnerable, trust is created. This trust opens doors to creativity and change. The way to be vulnerable is to tell true stories. Ones where the outcome was success but more importantly tell stories of failure. Stories of fear. Learn together. Pretending to be strong is easy. Showing weakness is hard, especially for successful leaders. The reason vulnerability works is it creates human connection. Leaders who are also human become more relatable.
3. Support Personal Growth
“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” - Jim Rohn
Emotional Intelligence is about controlling your emotions so you can help manage the emotions of your relationships. As people grow they feel fulfilled. If people are satisfied and happy they will trust that your intentions are good. Encourage your team to grow personally outside of work. Encourage them to be who they want to be by supporting, asking questions and showing care and concern. When people feel supported they grow. When they grow they have loyalty. Loyalty is also a byproduct of trust.
4. Allow People to Determine Their Role
“Employees have different cycles in their lives and the employers who are most able to attract them are those that will allow employees to ramp up or ramp down during their career depending on different events going on in their personal lives.”
- Edie Goldberg
When people feel like they have a say in their role they are more likely to trust the leader and organization. Trust is about allowing people to make decisions that benefit themselves as well as the company. Ask your team members exactly how they want to accomplish the team’s shared vision. While they don’t determine the destination, they can help map the path.
5. Encourage Excellence
“Ultimately, you cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and getting out of their way.” - Paul J. Zak
People live up to their expectations. Expect more. Clearly define the expectations for each person and team. Then let them get to work.
6. Reward Excellence
“The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.” - Brian Tracy
Notice the good others do. Notice the effort. Announce the accomplishments of your team. Tell your customers of the good work that each employee on your team does. Share it in emails. Tell it over lunch meetings. Give credit to others. Tell them you trust them because they do good work. Make a plan to at least once a day publicly call out the excellence of your team. It will build trust.
7. Focus on Relationships
“I believe that trust is more powerful than power itself….it supports innovation and flexibility, and it makes life more enjoyable and more productive. People who live in high-trust environments thrive.” - Joel Peterson
People connect with people. The leaders are what people trust, not the company itself. Leadership is built one person at a time. Focus on the person’s ambition, desire and skills. Help them know that they are valued and respected and the trust will be automatic.
Being aware of the emotional state of others is the first step for strong leaders to build trust. The second is to be able to respect and act on the those emotions through “trusted” behaviors. Words mean little when not backed by action. Building trust takes time, it takes proof and can be built with anyone as long as your actions match your desired outcomes.
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