Tips for Thought

Trust: it’s a five-letter word that holds monumental significance in the realm of business. Earning it, especially from your employees, can be likened to panning for gold. It requires time, patience, consistency, and above all, authenticity. But how can you, as a leader, win over the trust of your team? Here are five proven ways to help you unlock this golden treasure.

1. Transparency is Your Trump Card

Imagine a game where all the cards are face up on the table. There are no hidden tricks, no veiled maneuvers, only openness. This is the game you need to play as a leader. Be transparent with your employees; they have a stake in your organization’s journey just as much as you do. Share company updates, both good and bad, engage them in decision-making processes, and provide constructive feedback. As you let the sunshine in, you’ll find that the shadow of distrust begins to recede.

Example: Buffer, a social media management platform, is a notable example of a company that highly values transparency. They have open salaries, meaning every employee knows what their co-workers earn. Also, they publicly share information about their revenues, pricing calculations, and even fundraising rounds. This level of openness boosts the employees’ trust in the organization as they are always in the know about the company’s performance and financial health.

2. Listening is More Than Hearing

Often, we listen to respond, not to understand. But real listening is a quiet act of trust-building. Engage with your employees actively and empathetically. Encourage them to voice their ideas, concerns, and dreams. It’s not about agreeing with everything they say, but creating a space where they feel heard and valued. Remember, trust doesn’t come with instructions; it’s born in the echo of genuine conversations.

Example: The executive leadership at Starbucks holds regular “Open Forums” where employees are free to ask questions, voice concerns, and suggest ideas. The company’s former CEO, Howard Schultz, is known for spending considerable time each week reading and responding to employee emails. This open dialogue illustrates the company’s commitment to active listening, making employees feel heard and valued.

3. Walk the Talk

If trust had a currency, it would be called consistency. The quickest way to erode trust is to say one thing and do another. It’s vital to keep your promises, no matter how big or small. This creates a firm belief among employees that their leader will do what they say, making you reliable in their eyes. So, follow through on your commitments, whether it’s a promised raise, an arranged meeting, or an office pizza party.

Example: The famous case of Domino’s Pizza’s turnaround strategy perfectly highlights this point. After receiving feedback about the poor taste of their pizza, CEO Patrick Doyle admitted publicly in their advertising campaign that their pizza wasn’t good enough and promised improvements. They then completely revised their pizza recipe, demonstrating that they listened to their customers and were committed to delivering on their promises. This not only improved their customer trust but also boosted employee morale and trust in the company’s leadership.

4. Empower and Equip

There’s something deeply satisfying about a task well done. And there’s no better way to bring out the best in your employees than by empowering them. Trust their abilities and give them opportunities to stretch and grow. Provide them with the right tools, training, and guidance to excel. In doing so, you are signaling your faith in their skills, which fosters their trust in you.

Example: Google is well-known for empowering its employees by allowing them to spend 20% of their time working on their projects. This “20% time” has led to some of Google’s best innovations, including Gmail and AdSense. By doing this, Google shows that it trusts its employees to use their time wisely, leading to higher job satisfaction and trust in the company.

5. Humanize Leadership

Trust cannot be commanded; it must be cultivated, and nothing develops trust like authenticity. Show your employees that there’s a human with passions, struggles, and dreams behind your leader’s hat. Be willing to admit your mistakes, be approachable, and share some personal stories or experiences from time to time. By revealing your human side, you help your employees connect with you, creating a trust-rich environment.

Example: Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has a reputation for being authentic and transparent. He’s been known to sleep at the factory when his teams work hard to meet production goals, showing a willingness to share in their struggles. He also communicates openly with his employees, as seen in 2018 when Tesla was going through a tough time. He sent a letter to his employees describing the challenges and his commitment to improving. This authentic approach makes him more relatable to his employees, leading to higher levels of trust.

Interested in expanding your knowledge?

Here are two books that talk about ways to earn the trust of your employees:

  • The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M. R. Covey
  • This book argues that trust is the single most important factor in determining the success or failure of any organization. Covey provides a framework for building trust and offers practical advice on how to put this framework into action.

  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzle
  • This book is about how to have difficult conversations effectively. The authors argue that trust is essential for having productive discussions, and they provide a step-by-step process for building trust and resolving conflict.

Both of these books are well-written and informative. They offer practical advice to help you build trust with your employees and improve your leadership skills.

What are some additional tips for earning the trust of your employees?

  • Be honest and transparent.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Be fair and consistent.
  • Be willing to listen to feedback.
  • Be supportive and encouraging.
  • Be ready to admit when you’re wrong.

Following these tips can create a workplace where employees feel valued and respected. This will lead to increased productivity, innovation, and employee satisfaction.

Cultivating trust is a dynamic and continuous process. It’s about creating an environment of openness, empathy, consistency, empowerment, and authenticity. As you journey down this path, you’ll find that trust is not just a five-letter word. It’s the glue that holds together the various pieces of the business puzzle, creating a picture of success. And yes, it’s worth its weight in gold!