Organizations thrive when they create work environments built on a foundation of trust between employees and senior leaders. A lack of confidence, on the other hand, breeds skepticism and insecurity and has the potential to impact the productivity of the workforce. Fifty-five percent of CEOs surveyed by HBR last year agreed that a lack of trust in an organization could affect its overall growth, so it should come as no surprise that employees feel the same.
In a recent survey conducted by SHRM, 61 percent of employees agreed that building trust between themselves and senior management is fundamental to their job satisfaction. Yet only 33 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with the level of trust existing in their organizations. Those statistics should send a message to senior leaders who may already be aware of unrest in their teams that now is the time to take positive steps toward rebuilding trust.
For those of you committed to creating or reviving a culture of trust in your organization, these five essential behaviors can help shift the culture in a more positive direction.
1. Listen to your team.
Mastering the art of active listening not only helps leaders build trust in the workplace, but it’s also considered one of the most effective ways to connect with employees across an organization. Listen carefully to your team with your full attention and with as little judgment or opinion as possible — and learn to absorb information, focusing on the words and their meaning.
2. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.
React consistently and appropriately to challenges, successes, and, yes, even failures. A healthcare executive once shared that having a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses — and knowing when to share them — can instill courage and confidence in your team, inspire their best efforts, and encourage accountability.
3. Practice empathy.
Consider how you relate to your employees and how they relate to you. Are they friendly, or do they keep their heads down when you walk into the room?
Each of us has an opportunity to connect with, share, and understand the feelings of another person. Achieving self-awareness, one of the cornerstones of my coaching practice, allows us to cultivate empathy. The mind is a powerful thing: Once we learn to be helpful and friendly, to be loving, gentle, and kind, we also learn to care for and trust one another.
4. Tap into your team’s collective consciousness.
It takes a village to invoke change, and a conscious leader knows that some of the best ideas come from crowdsourcing among employees. When you tap into the collective consciousness of your team, you create space for people to develop interpersonal relationships with one another.
By creating an environment in which people feel comfortable looking out for each other, your team inevitably takes on a broader sense of commitment and security. The reward of this shared responsibility is an organically evolved environment that thrives on interaction and open communication — which produces better results for the company and promotes a happier team.
5. Be real with your words and actions.
Great leaders are driven, genuine, and passionate. Their communication is direct and concise. They are mindful of their intentions to foster friendship and goodwill and, above all, they are trustworthy.
As trust between employees and senior management continues to gain importance, great leaders must do everything they can to preserve it. That means being truthful with your team, even when it’s difficult.
The bottom line
Employees put their faith in senior management’s ability to provide a promising work environment filled with challenging experiences and opportunities for growth. They trust their leaders to empower and support them, so they can do their best in contributing to the success of the company. As such, leaders must be the driving force for a company culture that facilitates openness and trust. Those who can will be rewarded with highly engaged teams, more fun at work, and stronger business results.
Hal Adler is an executive coach, mindfulness expert, and founder of Leadership Landing with extensive experience in Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, and midsize companies. Hal built Leadership Landing on the belief that leaders exhibit five key attributes: self-awareness, bravery, kindness, innovation, and inspiration to effect powerful changes in themselves and their organizations.