Every leader’s ability to motivate and inspire employees is based on trust. Without trust, people are less likely to have confidence in your decisions and may even question or reject your leadership.
Trust is the root of a company’s success. Managers need to trust their employees to get the job done, employees need to trust their managers to know what’s best for the business, and everyone needs to trust in the products or services being offered. Without trust, communication, performance, and teamwork break down, and the entire workplace suffers.
When it comes to trust in leadership, actions speak louder than words. The team needs to see leaders putting what they say into action; otherwise, there is a disconnect between a manager’s words and actions. When employees can’t trust management to carry out promises, they are less likely to be committed to the company and will disengage.
Knowing this, it’s essential to build trust in the workplace regardless of how large or small the team. But what are the best ways to build trust? Here are just a few examples.
1. Make a personal connection
Creating a personal connection is one of the most effective trust-building strategies, and it works on multiple levels. Getting to know someone personally may seem counterintuitive to maintaining the appearance of a leader that employees should heed and respect, but workers are more likely to communicate with and aim to please a manager they like.
Making a personal connection with employees exhibits trustworthiness, warmth, and concern. Keep in mind, however, that building the connection starts with you.
Most employees are used to working under managers who have no interest in developing personal connections. As such, you should strive to share your passions in the workplace, even if those passions are more personal, such as technology, sports, music, or movies. Rather than make you look unprofessional, sharing actually cultivates trust because employees can find common ground.
You can also make a personal connection by doing something fun together as a team. Treat employees to lunch in small groups, schedule a team building activity, or work on a charity project together. When people can fulfill their personal and professional passions at the same time, they’re more likely to open up and find value in their work, and they will thank management for providing those opportunities.
It’s also essential to know when you shouldn’t multitask. For example, if an employee approaches you with an issue, put down the laptop or phone and focus on the conversation. This simple gesture makes an immediate personal connection and lets the employee know you’re all ears. When team members feel listened to, they feel valued, and they’re more likely to trust you as a leader.
2. Be honest and supportive
The overarching key to gaining trust is to be open and honest with others. As a manager, there’s often a fine line between keeping your employees in the loop and oversharing information the company hasn’t yet released to the public. Still, cultivating an honest communication culture in the workplace is essential.
Many major corporations forget the importance of communicating with employees, so much so that they resort to infrequent email communications and little or no face time. A good manager must be available to employees for the purposes of communicating and sharing ideas. When you make yourself available, focus on being honest and supportive.
Creating a positive work environment is the most supportive thing you can do for your employees. When you work in a positive office, employees feel like they can discuss issues with co-workers and management, which helps get things done.
In addition to a positive work environment, be sure to support employees with the proper training. New hires should know exactly how to perform a job when they’re hired, and ongoing training should be available as needed. Proper training also produces the best employees and keeps turnover rates in check. When you give employees the support and training they need, they know they can trust you to be a dedicated manager who cares about them and the company.
Motivation is also key. Individual employees are motivated by different things, so take the time to get to know each person on the team. When you learn how to better motivate your team members, you can recognize them with rewards, promotions, and other incentives.
3. Commit to follow through
When a manager gets in the habit of making promises with no intention of keeping them, distrust runs rampant in the workplace. To build trust, commit to following through on the things you say. Naturally, this means watching what you say so that you don’t unwittingly commit to something you can’t deliver. Even so, it’s much worse to break a commitment than to never make one because doing so will destroy the trust you’ve already built in the office.
You should also encourage employees to do the same. When co-workers are committed to following through on promises, other members of the team know they can rely on them. As a manager, you also want any delegated tasks to be completed on time, and leading by example will show others the importance of following through on those commitments.
If you’re coming from a place where your team isn’t as dependable as you’d like them to be, it’s time to engage them more effectively. Get them involved in tasks you know they’re good at. To help encourage follow-through, ask for their word that they’ll complete the task on time, and even have them write it down.
After discussing the task, ask the employee to summarize the commitment so you can make sure they understand the details. You can even keep employees engaged by setting unusual deadlines that better stand out in people’s minds.
4. Treat all employees as equal partners
Employees are less likely to trust upper management when they find themselves on tiered levels of importance. Instead of identifying employees as rookies, old-timers, part-timers, or temporaries, consider everyone equal.
New employees, part-timers, and even the lowest-paid member of your team will feel more involved and accepted in the workplace when they’re treated as equals. To achieve this outcome, management should be just as engaged in the lives and work of new employees as they are their seasoned ones.
In fact, a good way to make employees feel equal is for leaders to seek ideas and opinions from new or part-time employees. When one of them offers a great idea or solution to a problem, give them the credit they deserve.
You’ll also want to focus on shared goals rather than personal ones. Instead of assigning individual goals, assign goals an entire team will have to pull together to accomplish. Since each member has to rely on co-workers to get the job done, they have to trust the other person will do his or her job.
5. Create a transparent work environment
Trust is more easily achieved when you build a transparent workplace. If you, as the manager, are committed to an open and honest work policy, then this should be reflected in the office itself.
The most effective transparent work environments are defined by their physical and emotional openness. Not only do managers and supervisors make themselves available to team members, but they may even work in the same desk arrangement.
The modern open office gets rid of the cubicles and private offices that define someone’s worth, giving the entire team access to management when they need it most. When an employee can look over and see the startup’s CEO working just as hard as she is, she’ll put more trust in the workplace and feel like she’s more of an equal.
When embracing an open-office floorplan, consider which team members frequently need to work together. By placing these team members’ desks in a grouping, it’s easier for them to communicate with one another on shared projects.
Since open offices can be distracting, you may want to offer private spaces where employees can go to make important phone calls or meet with a contact. Renting offices inside a co-working building is an ideal solution because they often already come with everything you and your employees need.
No matter your approach, building trust in the workplace is key for running a successful business. It’s as simple as giving your team the tools they need and modeling the behavior you want to see in your employees.