The greatest snag I’ve faced in my endeavors of building a more human world of work is the lack of trust that exists in workplaces between employees, between employees and leaders, and between leaders, their peers, and their teams.
That’s because trust is essential in the workplace. Without trust, it is impossible to get even day-to-day tasks accomplished satisfactorily, let alone establish an environment of empathy, compassion, and care. Working in the absence of trust is a challenging and obstacle-littered enterprise that has an enormous effect on the organization as a whole.
Research in the United States indicated that employees at high-trust companies were more satisfied than those at low-trust companies because trust in the workplace reduced anxiety by 74%, gave productivity gains of 50%, led to a 106% increase in work-related energy, and resulted in a 76% boost in engagement. These numbers leave no room for doubt as to why trust is a driving element for genuine human connection in a company.
How do you characterize trust in an organization?
One of the most important duties organizational leaders have is to create an atmosphere of trust. However, leaders are misled if they assume that trust will automatically accompany the position they occupy. Trust in a leader is a currency that does not come easy, it takes time, a lot of effort, and is the result of many factors. It is invoked based on your skill, consistency, honesty, and willingness to deliver what you promise.
Shared beliefs about leadership qualities such as compassion and competence are what contribute to workplace trust. When employees have faith in their leadership, and by relation, the management, they believe and expect them to act in the interests of the group as a whole rather than as an individual, unbothered entity.
In research on the behavioral components of trust for leaders, Harvard Business Review highlighted the following factors:
- The ability to build and sustain mutually valuable connections with employees
- The display of competence and wise judgment
- Uniformity between words and deeds
How leaders can establish trust in the workplace
The good news is that you can establish and sustain trust over time by focusing on some essential strengths:
Incorporate clarity of purpose
What we can’t see, understand, or connect to is unlikely to gain our trust. Besides establishing an overarching sense of purpose that resonates with every stakeholder in the organization, leaders who are also clear about their goals, standards, and day-to-day task are more likely to invoke trust and receive what they expect from the employees and vice versa. We become more resourceful and creative when we are clear about and connect to our priorities.
Serve before you demand
Even in personal lives, people are more willing to put their confidence in someone who they see genuinely caring about others. One can never overestimate the impact of genuine care that goes beyond yourself, no matter how small your actions may seem to you. People may doubt the sincerity with which others profess to have their best interests at heart, but they are far less likely to doubt tangible actions. It’s for a reason that the old adage goes “actions speak louder than words”.
Make those tough decisions
People pay attention to individuals who are prepared to choose right over easy when the need arises. Leaders who have set a precedent for doing what needs to be done, no matter what, inspire, first, admiration and, consequently, trust because they prove themselves to be people whom one can fall back on as well as rely on to take a stand.
Give visible proof
Results are the fastest way to create trust. People will not put their faith in you if you do not deliver on your promises, even if you exhibit compassion and integrity. An active participant who makes a significant impact is what employees desire in a leader.
Leaders rise to their ranks and become leaders because they deserve to. Therefore, employees expect caliber from their leaders, they expect that their leaders will endeavor to stay up-to-date, topical, and competent. From the leaders’ point of view as well, flexibility and receptivity to new ideas and new ways to accomplish things are significant. Complacency will stifle your own growth and simultaneously diminish others’ conviction in your abilities. The more you learn, the more you’ll grow, the more you’ll matter to your employees.
Invest in building connections
People support, invest in, and try to be among people they can identify with in some measure, and developing connections is the key to making that happen. In order to be a truly trustworthy leader, you must be able to strengthen your connections by asking empathetic questions, listening with intention, and expressing gratitude.
It takes time and commitment to build trust. Every activity and conversation you take up must be imbued with a desire to inspire trust, only then will the true aim of human leadership be realized.