Creating Trust At Work – 8 Ideas For Building Trust As A Leader

There has been so much literature in the last few years about employee engagement, and how to build a great company culture. If there is one clear reason for organizations to create an amazing culture, I’d have to say the answer is trust.

If employees trust you, and they perceive that what you’re doing is honestly in their best interest, and that you mean well, and have good intentions, then they will be engaged, and ready to perform.

Without trust, nothing else will work. It doesn’t matter if you give your employees, without trust, none of it matters. Unfortunately, there are way too many employers who either don’t get this, or realize how awful their company and brand is, and choose to hide it from employees.

A lot of people also don’t realize how similar our relationships are with coworkers as they are with our significant others. In your romantic relationships, trust is the most important thing, and is the core foundation of any healthy, long lasting relationship, and it’s the same for work. Similarly, when that trust is broken in a romantic relationship, it’s almost impossible to get it back. Same thing for work.

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There are several ways that an employer can work on building trust as a leader, but the most important thing when trying to build trust, by far, is to be real, authentic and sincere.

Seriously, don’t even try to fake it, you will get caught, because it’s blatantly obvious, and it will completely backfire on you. If you’re not ready to do it properly, don’t do it at all. Another thing that’s important to mention is that in order to get trust from your employees, you first have to give it. First, show them that you trust them and then they will much more open to trusting you.

Here’s how you can work on building trust as a leader.

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Be Honest

Honesty is the key to building trust. When you say something, you better mean it. This is the easiest way to ruin the trust with your employees. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep, and don’t be shy to admit you’ve made a mistake. Instead of shifting the blame, and assuming none of the responsibility, own up to whatever mistake you’ve made. Your employees will respect you more because of it.

Show Real Compassion For Your Employees

Sometimes employers talk the talk, but don’t really walk the walk. If they care about their employees, then they’ll offer them things like a flexible schedule, opportunities for personal growth, and make sure their employees have a strong work-life balance. When you show compassion for them, they’ll end up showing compassion for you. An authentic and trustworthy leader is one who has empathy and makes a conscious effort to get to know their employees on a deeper level.

Show True Passion For Your Work

If you’re not passionate about what you are doing, how can you expect to motivate an entire team? When you show your passion to the other employees, they’ll be able to tell, and you should be communicating that passion to them. Try explaining to your employees why you’re so passionate, and how they could potentially become as passionate as you.

Share Your Knowledge

Being knowledgeable about your industry or product instills trust in your team, because it shows them that you actually know what you’re talking about. Once they know that you know what you’re talking about, they’ll be more comfortable turning to you for questions and decisions. If you’re not that knowledgeable about your industry or product, become knowledgeable very quick. This is important for any leader who wants to earn their team's trust. Team members must have a firm belief that you know what you're doing and have confidence in your ability to get the job done.

Say Thank You And I’m Sorry

There are so many managers that don’t take any blame or don’t accept any responsibility when something goes wrong, looking to shift the blame to someone else. This is such a terrible thing to do, because deep inside, the employer knows they were wrong. The most trusted leaders understand the power in owning up to their mistakes, and saying sorry when they screwed up.
Similarly, when something goes well, a smart leader will thank everyone else on the team except himself. Remember to say thank you to your team, something that simple can really go a long way. When employees know that you’ll thank them and credit them for their work, they’ll be more motivated to do things properly, and that will establish a relationship of trust. Employee recognition is not something to shy away from. It needs to be an integral part of your organization. 

Harvard Business Review shared these 4 simple ways you can recognize a team member or team performance in order to build workplace trust:

  • Tell the employee exactly what was done correctly.
  • Tell the employee why the behavior is important and valued.
  • Stop for a moment of celebration.
  • Encourage repeat performance.
building trust as a leader

Get To Know Employees Personally to Build Trust as a Leader

Getting to know your employees on a more human, and personal level is a great way to build trust, by becoming closer with them. Make sure to take some time to have face-to-face meetings, and make sure to go around and personally ask employees how they’re doing. Make it a daily habit to talk to your employees and connect with them on a personal level. That personal touch is critically important to building trust and engaging associates.

Be Really Open & Transparent

I think one of the most powerful ways to build trust is by simply being open and transparent in all of your communications. Employees know right away when their boss is being honest, and if you communicate frequently, you’ll earn their trust and respect. This is particularly important during the tough times. When the business isn’t doing as well, you need to communicate openly with your employees and explain to them what’s going on.

Share The Long Term Vision

This one is really related to being open and transparent, but it’s important enough to separate. Not only is transparency important for building trust within a team, but communicating the vision and long term strategy is important for employees to have passion. Make sure that everyone is aligned, and address any questions or concerns from your employees. Explain to them how their work will help reach that vision, thereby showing trust in them for however they end up getting there.

Building trust is the real secret to employee engagement. Once trust is built, everything else will fall into place.

Many leaders spend unlimited resources building a level of trust with customers or clients, but fail to take the time to develop that same connection with their own team. But failing to build employee trust is a crucial mistake – one that can mean the difference between the company’s success and failure. A breakdown in trust can negatively impact employee engagement, hinder teamwork and ultimately reduce productivity. Identifying the factors that damage trust between your leaders and their teams will help create greater engagement, improve motivation and have a powerful affect on the bottom line.

Factors That Break Down Trust

When it comes to building trust with any team, it is important for leaders to remember the old phrase, “actions speak louder than your words.” If a leader consistently says one thing but does another, the trust between that leader and the employee may be irreconcilably broken. Another major trust deterrent are leaders who take all the credit for a job well done, yet are quick to point fingers when something goes wrong. Make sure leaders work as a team or work on their own – but they cannot have it both ways and be successful.

Other factors that produce a trust deficit include:

  • Lack of communication
  • Inconsistent company values
  • Prioritizing production over employee relations
  • Frequent and unexplained changes
  • Poor working conditions

Tips For Building Trust as a Leader

The good news is that an effective leader can do several things to bridge the trust gap with their team, including:

  • Build relationships – The best way to build trust as a leader is to develop a personal connection with them.
  • Communication – Setting up a direct line of communication between yourself and your team is a crucial element to building trust. However, your team must know that you are going to stand by what you say and that they can come to you with their concerns as well.
  • Transparency – Leaders cannot share everything with their team, but they should strive to be as transparent as possible. When left in the dark, your team will often think the worst.
  • Follow Through – Following through with action is an absolute must if you hope to create a level of trust with your team. Otherwise, any steps you have taken to develop trust could backfire and create an even larger trust deficit.

A successful manager or supervisor understands the importance of building trust as a leader to create a strong relationship with their team members. They realize that this trusting relationship ultimately will lead to higher productivity and a higher success rate. Those who are confident in their abilities and skills will have no problem achieving a high level of trust management. This confidence can be obtained through education, experience and leadership training. A Better Leaders’ online leadership training program helps companies develop leaders with the skills to find success through employee trust in their leadership.

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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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