A consistent outcome from many large employee surveys tells us that business leaders are among the least trusted professions in today’s culture. Overall, trust in leadership is the main employee concern in the workplace.
Gallup’s research further confirms this by showing that leaders who don’t focus on their people have the trust of only 9% of their staff. Leaders who make people their priority foster a 73% trust level from their employees. This is a stunning statistic that exposes a marked difference in leadership mindsets.
Trust has long been considered a powerful trait that enables leaders to succeed. People who trust their leader are willing to follow them. They are more willing to engage their duties, make strong efforts to benefit their organization, prize the quality of their work, and feel like their efforts have value. Conversely, a leader who is not trusted can never overcome large, inevitable pitfalls.
Trust is a decisive difference maker in personal and collective prosperity, so it makes sense for leaders to raise their trust quotient as high as possible. You may ask where you should start. Gallup’s work indicates that the primary leadership mindset needed to establish and build trust is a genuine focus on people. Why don’t more leaders pursue this? They may not grasp its gravity or they may not understand the four basic elements.
A Helping Hand
Employees generally want to succeed by doing good work. They want to know what’s expected of them, how to complete their tasks, and have the ability to get them done well. Due to many complexities and volatilities, your people almost always need help from you.
People simply want to be provided what they need to succeed. Being in the trenches, most people accurately know what it takes to get their work done, and often better than their leader.
As a leader, you have the responsibility to provide the resources your people need to complete assignments. Adequate funding, supplies, or equipment may be required. More manpower and/or time might be necessary. Effective decision-making is a resource people also feel they need.
Sometimes the softer management skills meet the biggest needs. Your people may require further training or coaching. They may hope to be mentored to grow and develop their skills. Sometimes a positive attitude is what people want most when times get tough. Being observant and engaging will allow you to see the needs.
All of these are ways you can help. Remember that if your people fail, so do you. Helping them is thus one of your top imperatives. People will know they’re being taken care of when they are consistently helped. This fosters security and confidence, which builds their trust in you.
A Spirit of Appreciation
Everyone needs to know they matter somehow, that their work has value to someone. Each of your people seeks purpose, whether they recognize it or not.
Being valued for who they are and what they do is critical to self-worth and self-esteem. Without these no one is motivated about his or her duties, let alone succeeding at them.
If you show your people that you appreciate them, you are telling them they are worth valuing. You show them they are important to the organization, and they’re important to you as their leader. Your employees will respond by valuing their relationship with you, and in turn offer you their trust.
You can demonstrate that you value someone simply by showing an interest in them and their lives. Most people generally respond well to this, but only if it’s sincere. Faking it will be spotted eventually, and the outcome will be worse than not attempting at all.
Get to know your employees, their interests and aspirations. You can value people by understanding what they need, and caring enough to provide it if possible. You’re telling them that they are important enough to step up and offer the kind of help only someone at your level can provide.
Another important way to value people is to acknowledge their successes and celebrate with them. In the Entrepreneur Magazine article 9 Tests Every Leader Must Pass, Alan Zimmerman describes the importance of not only highlighting your peoples’ success but also rewarding it appropriately. These are powerful ways to value people that help them feel needed. Their trust in you will grow.
A Life of Integrity
Trustworthiness is strongly portrayed when a leader behaves, speaks, and responds with integrity. Leaders who act honestly and genuinely are trusted to do the right thing. When you are beyond reproach, people know your actions and decisions are not selfishly motivated and thus don’t need to be suspected. If you live out truth and transparency, holding yourself accountable to everyone, your people offer you their trust.
Integrity also means giving of yourself for the benefit of your people. Trustworthy leaders place a higher priority on the welfare of those they lead. People know they are in good hands, with a noble cause underlying their efforts. Often that requires courage, and this is another trustworthy trait.
A Heart of Humility
Leaders who treat their people as more important than themselves earn much trust. They give credit for successes rather than take it. They bear the heat for the disappointments rather than blame their staff. Humble leaders also praise their people for their accomplishments, and allow them their chance in the spotlight.
If you seek feedback and ideas from your staff, and allow them to partner with you rather than be ruled by you, you will earn their trust. Your people will feel they contribute, and have the freedom to use their skills. This practice builds teamwork and unity; two themes people yearn for, yet statistically, rarely experience.
Leaders who admit they can always learn from others show their openness to value and trust their people. This generates trust in return. In the American Management Association article 5 Ways A Leader can Build A Culture Of Trust, Rich Eich points out that a leader who admits their mistakes displays humility. Employees are further encouraged to trust you if you also show how you’re learning from your mistakes. Your genuineness is displayed, and people sense a greater connection with you.
In essence, the level of trust you earn from your people is a measure of the connection they feel they have with you. By making your people top priority, you’ll build higher levels of trust in your organization and find more ways to succeed, over and over. Best of all, implementing them costs you very little, yet gains you very much. It’s the best ROI you’ll ever have!