How the Best Leaders Inspire Trust - it starts at the top
Trust in the workplace; it's a two-way street.
Trust is critically important not only on a personal level but in our workplaces. When we have it, we can climb mountains. When we don't, it can erode our self-confidence and our ability to function at our best. We can only imagine how IKEA France employees felt on learning the company actively spied on them. The company was ordered to pay €1.1m in fines by the court after being found guilty of spying on staff.
IKEA is not alone. In our "new normal", many employers are struggling to trust in their employees now that more are working remotely. One in five companies has installed technology to spy on workers or is planning to. This is not how the best leaders inspire trust.
What happened to trust?
The lack of trust in the workplace is not new. We have had decades of working in a hierarchical system that treats employees as commodities rather than assets. A lack of trust bred the "us and them" mentality. Employers don't trust that their employees will complete the work they have been hired to do. Employees don't trust their employer to be fair to them. Unfortunately, many companies are struggling to trust their employees while working remotely. But it gets worse. According to an article in HBR, remote working has reduced the trust we have in the people we work with.
The link between trust and performance.
We know there's a direct link between trust and business performance, so why are companies ignoring that? Companies that have the trust of their employees improve their financial performance, productivity, and service quality. The more the employees' trust, the better their rate of productivity.
Companies that build great relationships with their people are those which will excel in the marketplace.
How can you show trust?
With remote work being here to stay, how can your company prove your trust and loyalty to your employees? How can you show trust in your colleagues?
There are several things you can do.
- Assume the best. In general, people are good and have the best intentions towards each other. If something goes wrong, believe the person has done their best. Thanks to the human need to reciprocate, the bonus is that people will judge you for your genuine intent. This is the foundation of trust.
- Be transparent. Be upfront about the goals for the business, what you expect from an employee and what you will not tolerate. Be prepared to accept the same back from your people and take on board their needs. As colleagues, keep the lines of communication open and explain what you're doing and why. No nasty surprises for anyone!
- Speak up. Trust is often lost when communication is insufficient. Don't wait to be asked. Instead, speak up and tell your people what you're doing and how things are working. Speak up if you're struggling to meet a goal or deadline. Speak up when things go wrong – but speak up when things go right, too.
- Build accountability. Schedule regular meetings where both sides can share, discuss, and strategies to meet goals and deadlines. Setting a regular meeting time will help everyone stay on track with what is needed. This is especially important while people are working remotely.
- Behave ethically - Professor Peter Northouse identified five principles of ethical leadership. They are respect, honesty, justice, community (teamwork and cohesion), and integrity. This behaviour needs to start at the top. The management team sets the standards which the rest of the company follows.
- Train your leaders. A study from the Ken Blanchard Companies found "coach-like behaviours" build trust. It also showed that employees who trust their leaders perform better and are less likely to leave the company. Introduce a program to support your leaders as they develop their coaching skills.
- Finally, and most importantly, tell your people you trust them. Then stand out of their way while they get the job done. This is how the best leaders inspire trust in their employees.
We can't see what people are doing all the time and, in all honesty, we should be more concerned about our own performance anyway. However, take a 'risk' and allow your people the discretion and autonomy they need to work wherever they are. They might do it their way rather than yours, but what does it matter if they get the job done. Practice trust. It pays off.
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Caroline Kennedy, author of Lead Beyond 2030: The Nine Skills You Need to Intensify Your Leadership Impact, is an accomplished, award-winning CEO and global thought leader on business and leadership. She is a highly sought-after mentor and coach to top global executives. A respected keynote speaker and author, Caroline’s methods are neuroscience-based to achieve rapid development and growth.