Building Trust in Leadership Around the Workplace

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Dave Millner
06/23/2020

trust in leadership

The pandemic has clearly established the importance of trust in the workplace as large sections of many organizations have been working from home without being under the close scrutiny of leaders and management.  It’s taken a crisis to push this initiative forward and one of the barriers that has been broken down has been that of trust.

Trust, to my mind, is the foundation of all successful interpersonal relationships, both personal and in the workplace.  Trust is the confidence or belief a person feels toward a particular person or group and so trust is, therefore, one of the primary forces that enables people to gel and truly work effectively together.

However, I’m not sure that leaders fully appreciate the power of being perceived as having high levels of trust and integrity.  After all, the perceptions of the workforce do impact upon business results as the links between employee engagement and improved bottom line performance have been proven to show. 

And yet I’m not sure that leaders have altered their behaviour to embrace this important principle as the organizational focus continues to revolve around the drive for improved results and business performance especially when the ‘New Normal’ that everyone is talking about emerges.

READ: Life After the Coronavirus in HR

Trusted leaders get many rewards such as the ability to retain talented people, more engaged employees, a more positive ‘performance development’ driven work culture rather than the more traditional command control culture and most importantly improved business results.

So why haven’t leaders learnt the importance of trust?  The absence of trust causes confusion, worry, inaction, and fear.  When trust has been developed individuals feel confident that everything will somehow work out, something that is just as important now as it has been over the past few challenging months.

Trust in Communication 

In the workplace, trust is a prerequisite for effective communication and without it employees may feel uncertainty and a sense of insecurity, especially in the time that we now find ourselves in.  No relationship, personal or business, can exist for even a short period of time if some element of trust is not present. Trust is an essential leadership ingredient that binds any relationship into an effective, working partnership.

However, trust is an over used word as people use trust, or the lack of it, to explain both good and bad relationships with others.  To my mind there are various elements that drive trust from leaders:

  • Leader’s Capability: irrespective of how well leaders get on with other people their credibility as a leader is dependent upon their perceived leadership (not just technical) competence.
  • Leader’s Ability to Deliver: trust is enhanced if the employees know that decisions and action is taken to ensure that deliverables and performance expectations are met.
  • Leaders ‘People Focus’: leaders must have an intrinsic belief in their people and be willing to delegate and empower them to do what is necessary to get things done. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that leaders cannot control everything and that their willingness to trust their employees is vital if you expect that level of trust to be reciprocated.
  • Engaging Leader: this is about leaders who communicate and engage with their employees and ‘keep them in the loop’ about what is going on even though they may be working remotely.  There is nothing worse if your team doesn’t know what is going on! 

In conjunction with these elements, leaders need to be consistent in their approach with their employees and ensure that they are open with their thoughts and ideas and at an interpersonal level. They need to be prepared to take time to listen and appreciate where people are ‘coming from’ and how they see things.  This is more challenging with remote workers but that’s what leaders and managers get paid for!

Put these elements together and I believe that you will have the basis of a trusted leader; as always it sounds so simple when it’s written down.  A trusting relationship demands that each person contributes enough respect so that it can be reciprocated back from the other person. Unilateral respect in relationships is temporary and superficial whereas mutual respect can lead to a much deeper and longer lasting level of trust that binds people together through difficult times.

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Building trust in the workplace is vital for a long-lasting, satisfying, rewarding, and successful relationship. Leaders need to be more self aware of how they operate in the workplace (that’s where multi rater or 360-degree feedback can be a constructive and positive experience) so that they can practice the behaviours that promote and build trusting relationships.

By learning these actions leaders benefit from higher morale, increased initiative, improved feedback channels and better productivity; all of these being important aspects of a profitable and rewarding business experience.

Enduring trust is not an option for leaders it’s a necessity if they are to build and sustain a high performing workforce that delivers exceptional performance in these challenging times.  Get on the case now before your employees act by moving onto new challenges and new organizations!

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