In most relationships, people want to have trust—with a romantic partner, with a family member, with a doctor or a dentist, with a mechanic or a plumber. In those relationships, without trust as a foundation, much can fail. Shouldn’t we see it the same in the workplace? After all, a company’s success is based on trust—consumers must trust the brand, and employees, who, in essence, sell trust to consumers, most definitely need to trust their leaders. CommuniCon, Inc., says that “high-trust organizations have increased value, accelerated growth, enhanced innovation…and improved collaboration.” So why is it that, according to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, 82% of people don’t trust business leaders to tell the truth? If you’re a leader in your company, that statistic should be alarming.
Luckily, it’s never too late to start building, earning, and increasing trust, and one basic building block is communication. Note that word well, though, because too often, leaders confuse the skill—communication—with its vehicles—communications. Gaining trust is not about which channels you use. It’s about the messaging—and the truth behind it—itself.
To start, recognize that integrity is the backbone of trust. If you don’t act, speak, and interact in a consistently honest fashion, you will not earn trust. To show integrity, you need to do as you say you’ll do, be transparent, and not over-promise. You’ll need to “walk the talk.” This isn’t about telling employees every last detail. Too much information can actually be more damaging than not enough information. It is, however, about following through, about providing necessary information in a timely fashion, and about being honest.
Employees want senior management to be visible and accessible. Staying behind closed doors and not allowing interaction will make you seem secretive, which erodes trust. Instead, try working on your one-on-one relationships. To start, increase dialog, remembering that that’s a two-way street: you must have solid listening skills to be good at communication. And, as you get to know your employees, be sure to follow through on those conversations—if you’ve promised something, no matter how small, deliver.
Remember, too, that people will more readily trust people who act with professionalism and respect. Communicate courteously—don’t respond in anger or with agitated emotion, and avoid industry jargon and doublespeak. Simply be clear and consistent in your message, and employees will begin to value your candor and forthrightness.
By developing a sincere approach to communicating with your staff, you will move toward eradicating any sense of a fear-inducing hidden agenda, take a step toward intentional leadership, and begin to build the trust that can result in so much more for your company.