How do you instill trust in the workplace?
You can’t inspire and lead collaborative efforts without it…
It’s not as elusive as you might think, though, if you’re willing to take some simple steps on your leadership development journey.
Do people believe you’ll do what you promised?
Here’s the harsh reality of many corporate cultures...
Your team sits through a meeting and reaches consensus on a stated direction. Discussion takes place. Action items are identified and assigned. Commitments are made, timelines are set.
Everyone leaves the room...and here’s what happens next:
Some of what was discussed happens easily and immediately, consistent with the stated goals.
Actions are taken by members of the team that are at direct odds with what was agreed upon.
Many action items don’t happen at all because someone drops the ball.
Despite everyone sitting through a lengthy meeting, identifying action items, and agreeing that they warranted everyone’s efforts, the stated goals fall flat.
And now, the entire team is wondering why their leader made them participate in this “collaborative” exercise in the first place when they could have carried out their roles without sitting through the meeting.
Frustrated and disappointed, their motivation to “collaborate” again is greatly diminished.
As a leader, you’ve lost the trust of your team and undermined their trust in one another.
What causes untrustworthy behaviour, and what can we do about it?
If you’re honest with yourself, this scenario has played out in your office on at least one occasion. Why?
Two common factors undermine trust in the workplace.
Many of us are averse to conflict, no more so than in the workplace. We find it more efficient and less scary to simply agree in meetings rather than ‘pick a fight’. Our instinct is to blend in and not make waves.
We lose constructive dialogue, dissenting opinions, a sharing of perspectives, data, and knowledge.
The chaos of life and business takes over, making it hard for people to live up to all the commitments they make. Our intentions are good, but we’re stretched too thin.
You’ve built a team of ambitious, engaged people who always strive towards personal and professional milestones. Do you all know how to create a balance?
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4 steps to building trust in the workplace
There are certain qualities that high-impact leaders possess. Of all the qualities, being trustworthy is the lynchpin.
You might be thinking, “I’m the boss; it’s their job to trust me.”
That’s true on paper. But your employees have to know that you’re a person of character, and you demonstrate that by following through on your commitments.
Follow these four steps, and you’ll earn the trust of your team...and they’ll emulate your behaviour and strengthen your team.
Quickly assess what’s viable for you to do. You’ll know how many projects you’ve got on your desk and any personal goals you’ve set for yourself.
Be realistic. Now that you’ve assessed your schedule – both personal and professional – offer your time to the tasks you know you can complete.
3. Practice grace and compassion
Your reflexes will kick in when a member of your team indicates that they’d like your assistance. You’ll want to say “yes”. Learn to say “no” with grace and compassion.
4. Follow through
Now that you’ve committed, follow-through. This will likely mean saying “no” to something else that arises during your day.
Leading by example leads to trust in the workplace
It’s very easy for everyone to get swept up in a busy work environment. Things move quickly, and anyone who tries to press in the clutch is regarded as an anomaly.
But what if you were to set a standard of slowing down, assessing, committing, practicing grace, and following through?
What if everyone in the room wasn’t fearful of speaking up during a planning meeting because they’d seen you do it?
Or, offer critique with grace because it informed the discussion and wasn’t framed as a personal attack.
Or not offer to take on a new project because they knew they were at capacity. They’d feel comfortable doing this because you’d done the same…
They’d know that it’s better to say “no” upfront than say “yes” in the meeting, walk away, and not fulfill their commitment.
It’s a delicate balance for you as a leader. You need to be brave and thoroughly ground in reality at precisely the same time.
Without bravery, you won’t inspire excellence.
Without a firm grip on reality, you won’t inspire trust.
It’s possible to strike that balance. I can help.
Contact me, and we’ll start the journey towards trust in the workplace.
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This article was updated in 2021.
Photo credit: Julian Tateisi