Building trust with your team is not only crucial for a harmonious office, but for business productivity too, says Cynthia Stuckey, MD of Forum in Asia-Pacific.
“Levels of trust impact directly on productivity and staff retention, so it is vital that Australian business leaders recognise how to build trust with their staff and how to avoid the common pitfalls,” she says.
A recent survey of leaders and employees by Forum has showed a gap of trust between leaders and employees, with employees rating trust as almost twice as important as their leaders do.
The results also found that only 43.1% of employees trusted their leaders to a great or very great extent.
Forum’s tips for leaders looking to build trust:
Act with integrity
One of the major complaints heard from employees was a lack of transparency and/or lying. An example given was of a leader advising two employees that they were being developed for the position. This not only shows a disregard for the individuals concerned, but also shows a naivety in thinking that employees don’t speak to each other. If employees feel they are being deceived, they are likely to lose faith in the company and ultimately become less productive.
Listen and demonstrate care
Poor communication and interpersonal skills was another common complaint. Not listening to employees and those working closest to the customer makes them feel undervalued. Leaders should never underestimate the insight that can be offered by employees who actually interact with customers.
Walk the talk
Leaders should exhibit the behaviour and attitude they expect from their employees. Sixth on the list of employee annoyances was of leaders asking employees to do things that they themselves won’t do. Leaders shouldn’t expect employees to work late or do unpleasant tasks if they regularly leave on time and consistently delegate all the less-desirable tasks to other people.
Demonstrate trust and empowerment
Empowering staff doesn’t necessarily mean giving them more authority, but rather making them feel strongly and positively about the organisation by not undermining them. One example that can make employees feel undermined is when leaders complain about other team members. While the leader may think that they are confiding in an employee and building a rapport with them, in reality the employee is just wondering whether the leader talks about them in the same way. Trust should be demonstrated not through negativity but through positive enforcement.
Encourage/recognise hard work
Recognition is a vital part of building trust and respect. Employees told Forum that leaders consistently took praise for employees’ work and let their staff take the blame for their mistakes. The survey showed that only 2.3% of employees felt their leaders always acknowledged their own mistakes. If an employee isn’t recognised for their input, they won’t see their progression path and will have no reason to stay.
Provide clear and consistent messages/vision
Being inconsistent was the most quoted complaint from employees. Any lack of consistency between what was said and what was done will quickly lead to employee disengagement. One example provided was when leaders talk about team and participation but lead in a directive hierarchical style.
Give constructive feedback/coaching
Coaching must not be seen as a one-way street. It means not only providing feedback (both good and bad), but also following through on commitments and holding both parties responsible for any necessary improvements or changes.