If you don’t think building trust is important in the workplace, here’s something to chew on. Companies that have strong leadership and high levels of trust and collaboration tend to bring in higher revenues than companies lacking those traits, suggests the 2011 Building Trust in Business Survey conducted by the firm Interaction Associates.
Now that you have at least some idea about why trust is important, here’s how to go about fostering it in your workplace.
Schedule one-on-one time with each of your subordinates.
To build trust with your employees, you have to take the time to show them you care about their ideas, and that you’re willing to hear their concerns. Whether it’s once a month or even less frequently, schedule check-in time. Use part of the time to discuss business matters or to go over employee goals, but also spend a little time getting to know your employees on a more personal level -- without crossing the line into intimate details, of course. Hobbies, sports or kids tend to be safe topics.
Encourage team decision-making
Your employees will respect and trust your decisions more when you allow them a chance to weigh in about those decisions. It’s not always possible, but when it is, ask for employee input. Create surveys, send an email asking for ideas, or allow each employee to share her thoughts about a business decision during the staff meeting.
Make leadership decisions transparent
Some decisions are not appropriate for group decision-making, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share information about why you made a certain decision. Ruling with an iron fist and laying down the law from on high doesn’t offer much in the way of trust or collaboration. When you make a big decision, let your staff know why you made that decision, and if it was a hard one to make, share that. Employees will share you showing your humanity and humility in decision-making.
Don’t share information told in confidence
If you want your employees to come to you when there’s a problem, don’t share information they tell you about said problems. Nothing spells “don’t trust me” more than spreading rumors or playing one employee off another and sharing information they’ve told you in confidence. It’s OK to get to know your employees, but don’t damage their trust by using personal information in an inappropriate manner.
Be as capable as you can be
Employees want a leader who’s confident and capable, and one who’s constantly striving to be the best leader possible. With that in mind, be constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve your leadership skills. Attend conferences or seminars, or even pursue a higher degree. Whatever you’re doing to improve, share it with your staff. If you’re going to be out of the office for a leadership seminar, for example, let the staff know where you’re going and that you’ll share the information you learned when you return.
Building trust as a leader doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a continual process and one that, for someone who strives to be the best leader you can be, probably won’t ever end.