Are You Building Authentic Trust at Work?

“Fake it until you make it” is often used to build confidence or to change behaviors in the moment, such as “smile until you feel like smiling.” But this is poor advice for leaders who are trying to build trust with their teams.

Cultivating trust is a definite need in today’s workplace. Research from Tolero Solutions indicates that for 45 percent of employees, the greatest factor affecting their performance at work is that they don’t trust their leadership.

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that even midlevel leaders don’t trust senior people. This is consistent with our findings in the book, Why Leaders Fail and the 7 Prescriptions for Success. Surveys indicate that trust levels are highest with peer to peer interactions.  All of our research indicates that real and sincere trust is missing in many workplaces.

5 Ways Leaders Can Build Trust

Leaders need to work to build and keep trust with their employees, suppliers, and customers. People in leadership positions who build trust discover that trust within the  organization also spreads externally. 

What can leaders and managers do?

  1. Be consistent. No employee wants to wonder whether the action they took on Monday is going to be wrong on Tuesday. If it was okay on Monday, it should be okay on Tuesday.  Set clear standards and be consistent.
  2. Provide feedback quickly and appropriately. People in any relationship, whether at work or at home need to know when they are doing things correctly and when they are not. Providing course corrections when you are in a leadership role is not optional – it is expected. Employees should be able to trust that their managers will care enough about them to let them know both when they are being successful and when they are not.
  3. Don’t shoot the messenger. Many employees will not tell leadership when there is an issue because they are afraid of being labeled as complainers, or worse, treated as thought they are the cause of the problem. Great leaders want to know when there are problems so they can fix them. They appreciate those people who help them identify and solve obstacles. 
  4. Jump in when necessary. If leaders preach the value of employees helping each other wherever they can, then managers can facilitate trust by helping out as well. That doesn’t mean doing people’s jobs for them. It means providing advice, guidance, and direction when needed.
  5. Tell the truth. Tell people the truth, especially during tough situations. Let people know what is going on quickly and completely. People would rather work for an honest, straight shooter than someone disingenuous. Bad news is better than uncertainty.  Jack Nicholson was wrong in the movie, A Few Good Men – people can handle the truth. 

Trust is often assumed until it is broken, but once broken, it is hard to regain. Great leaders need to be mindful of their actions and work continuously to build and maintain relationships at work.


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