Trust is the foundation of strong leadership. As simple as that may sound, it’s the truth. Workplaces founded on trust establish credibility, loyalty and mutual respect. Trust motivates employees to build authentic relationships and feel committed to their leadership through a sense of ownership and pride in the work they do. The result: they feel empowered to work from the heart and contribute to the company’s shared vision. So, while it may sound simple, building trust takes a lot of effort, time, unwavering commitment, and a defined set of core values.
To establish trust, an organization needs to address any potential issues that may be holding it back from achieving a highly motivated and productive workforce. Toxicity, destructive conflict and poor communication could be the obvious factors, however, other existing problems may have much deeper roots.
Today, some offices are still ruled like an iron-fisted hierarchy, where value is placed more on a person’s rank than their actual day-to-day achievements. Needless to say,this type of environment is demoralising to many hardworking employees. In “Leaders Eat Last”, Simon Sinek explains how one organization managed to empower its entire workforce by changing how everyone was treated: employees on the factory floor were granted the same privileges as those enjoyed by staff in administrative and managerial roles; time clocks and bells were removed, granting the floor workers more freedom, and payphones were replaced with regular phones so staff could use them freely as needed. These employees felt valued and heard, and, without coercion or pressure, everyone started to collaborate more naturally. Work become less of an obligation and more a source of pride and personal merit.
Lead by Example
“Do as I say, not as I do” seems to be the philosophy of most managers. Effective leaders don’t subscribe to this philosophy. Rather, they let their behaviour set an example for their staff; in other words, they “walk the talk”. Great 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, they hold themselves accountable first, they keep their word and they acknowledge their limitations. They’re also not afraid to admit when they fail or make a mistake. By setting this precedent, they encourage their staff to take chances and learn without the fear of retribution so they can become more confident.
Transparent and Clear Communication
When communication is clear and honest, staff feel safer talking about obstacles and challenges and how to address them appropriately. The opportunity to learn and grow within this environment enables employees to weigh in with their expertise, and they consequently buy in more readily to decisions made by upper management. This further bolsters the foundation of trust that is so critical for successfully achieving mutual goals and living the company vision.
Great leaders show their humanity. They listen to others and, when possible, provide a thoughtful response. They appreciate individual staff members and get to know them on a personal level, creating a positive and personal bond. As a result of this perceived self-worth, employees feel validated and become more connected to their work.
In Good Faith
With so many distractions coming at us from all directions, it can be arduous to stay focused on our tasks. According to the results of one survey, 48% of employers attribute low productivity to distractions from social media and smartphones; this causes morale to slip because others have to pick up the slack and deadlines can be missed. With stats like this, many managers feel the need to watch over their employees’ shoulders. This is the wrong approach. Instead, it’s better to clearly communicate effective policies and expectations of staff, and to set realistic timelines for deliverables while establishing good metrics. Doing so also lets managers grant onsite employees the same trust and flexibility they do to a remote employee.
Learning and Growing
With more millennials entering the workforce, there’s now a focus on learning new skills and growing within the organization. This challenge can be met in several ways. One way is to maximize corporate intellectual assets by pairing senior and junior staff members and promoting peer-to-peer coaching. Managers can also encourage employees to schedule some time each month to log on to the company’s learning management system and enroll in various training courses. Finally, it never hurts to establish a corporate book club or library where employees can stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and workplace best practices. A learning environment gives employees direct access to the professional development they need to succeed, which results in higher quality work being completed on time and on budget.
Recognize, Praise and Reward Exemplary Behaviour
When employees demonstrate exemplary behaviour, call it out. Whether you send an email to the team or company, or spotlight their efforts in an internal publication or at an employee gathering, recognizing and praising good behaviour reinforces the like and creates an incentive for others to follow. It also establishes fairness and shows that anyone can do a good job and get rewarded for it. Exemplary employees become ambassadors, living and modeling 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 story — after all, they will be your greatest ambassadors.
Bring it All Together
Employees are proud when their organization is successful; they also enjoy an environment where corporate values are practiced in the daily culture of the office. With job satisfaction and trust comes loyalty, and this leads to employees who work from the heart to deliver optimal results for the company. It starts from the top and trickles down. When managers lead by example and demonstrate the same behaviour they expect of others, they earn the respect of employees. Managers who walk the talk continuously raise the bar for themselves and their staff.