I’ve worked within organisations where trust in the senior leadership seemed to have broken down. In fact, one senior employee whom I talked with said that, in their organisation, the lost trust was irredeemable. That’s a huge prediction and maybe a bit dramatic.
Without a doubt, your ‘trust bank’ goes up and down over time as you lead different initiatives and changes.
Five things have become apparent as I’ve talked with people inside this organisation about developing, maintaining and nurturing trust. Five things you could use as a checklist when asking yourself: “Do my people trust me?”
Being technically competent is important but more than this, you need to be competent at leading people, too. Do you make competent decisions? Have you been trained in leadership? Have you been developed as a leader? Are you able to think strategically? Are you able to think holistically?
In an ideal world, we would share everything – but the world is not always ideal. How transparent do you make information, and how transparent are the strategies that you are developing? Do staff know what’s going on? Or are they on edge as you ‘organise’ (with the best intentions, of course) things around them? Are they walking on eggshells, feeling they are never sure what your next move will be? Do your employees understand why you have made the decisions that you have made? Because they’re not likely to accept them otherwise, especially if they’re important ones.
The employees I talked with also mentioned a huge chasm between them and their senior leadership. They don’t see the senior leadership. They don’t know them. They don’t understand them. And that lack of knowledge and understanding goes both ways. Developing relationships is really important in building trust in the short term. In fact, if you feel your trust rating is a bit low, then organising coffees and catch-ups is a great start to rebuilding it.
When building relationships, it is essential to do so authentically. Think about how you can have an open forum where people can ask you what’s really on their minds, and they can get clear, straight answers from you.
- Integrity (and follow through)
Do what you say you’re going to do. This relates back to transparency – you need to ensure that people know what you say you are going to do, so that they see and recognise it when you do it. If this means owning your mistakes, that’s okay as well. No one is perfect, and owning ‘your part of the mess’ is vital in building trust.
I’ve turned this checklist into a little ‘tool’ or reminder for you. Have a look at the chart below and think about how you would rank your trust values in each element. You can download this image here.