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Trust: Great Leaders Need the Trust of Their Employees

What is the benefit of your employees trusting you as a leader? The mantra “they are not your friends; they are your employees” in this desire to reduce the depth of a relationship that may negatively impact the organization’s hierarchy. While it has merit to recognize that there is authority that helps manage and organize the company, if you remove all of the humanity from the working relationship, you will reduce the effectiveness of each employee’s strengths.

This effectively reduces the leader - employee relationship to an equation: I am your boss + you are my employee = you do what I say without question. This mentality will cause, at best, the employee to begrudgingly accept the order from their leader and, at worst, resentment toward the leader. No leader wants to be resented simply for being in a management position.

A true leader does not have that level of resentment against them. While a true leader may make unpopular decisions, the fact that they are trusted by their employees will maintain the understanding that the decision was made with the staff’s best interest in mind.

Trust is very important. It builds the confidence of your staff in themselves and you. A trusting workplace culture provides camaraderie between staff. Trust develops when like-minded people interact. This means that if there is a contrast between your professional values and beliefs and your staffs professional values and beliefs, trust often cannot emerge. Even if you are authentic, if that trusting connection does not exist, then challenges in cohesiveness will occur.

So how does trust actually help? Since trust developed between people with a common set of values and beliefs, an organization that is made up of individuals pursuing the same goal will always outperform an organization that focuses on maintaining the hierarchical system of management. For innovation and productive risk-taking occurs only when there is trust and a sense of safety in employment.

In an environment without safety, the only action an employee may take is a direct request of their leader. If they were to take a risk and challenge the status quo, the best outcome would be a pat on the back and a possible empty promotion. At worst, they will lose their job. Without a sense of safety, movement is only possible if initiated from the top. Trust can’t develop in a culture that does not put value in their presence or give them a sense of safety. Thus is it vital that management make it clear how important their staff members are, and that the time is taken to hire employees who are authentically focused on the same set of professional values and beliefs.

Safety also comes from having confidence that the upper management’s intentions are foremost focused on benefiting employees above all else. In a culture of trust and safety, employees are more willing to innovate and challenge the everyday behaviour. This is what launches companies forward in their given industries, and it starts with the leaders of the company.

Trust is a visceral connection that develops, and it is the responsibility of the leaders in the company to develop a culture of trust.

When the leaders in a company can provide the sense of safety and a culture of trust, their staff can trust that each of their co-workers is focused on the same goal of bettering their work environment and accomplishing a united goal.

How does a leader develop this culture of trust? It is through acting as the example of the trusting culture. By showing your employees that you trust them as human beings, and that you expect the same from them, you develop a self-fulfilling prophecy that instills trust and authenticity, as the expected habits in the workplace. This early investment of time to change the mood of the workplace provides a vehicle that propels itself. In other words, the behaviour expected within the workplace becomes self-motivating and self-correcting as employees conduct business that requires a high level of trust in one another.

True leaders create a culture of trust by entrusting their staff responsibilities that would otherwise be micromanaged. A leader identifies the unique skills of their individual employees and entrusts responsibilities to them that are unique to their strengths. These leaders take the time to listen fully to their employees; identifying passions and talents that are being under-utilized. To provide their employees with a place to express themselves, safety from undue retribution and empowerment of innovation must be provided.

When an employee feels safe with you, they will more readily work out of their passion, utilizing their unique talents to provide quality products. However, none of this is possible without the traits of a true leader; developing a culture of trust.

Acting as an example of the trustworthy behavior, a leader is able to empower their employees to be fulfilled by the work they do, and feel confident in the quality of their craftsmanship. By listening to your employees, encouraging them to express their unique talents, and entrusting them with responsibilities that empower those talents, a leader builds a living, powerful work culture that drives production and innovation.

Lorna Hegarty, an Internationally Certified Master Coach, is the author of “The Seven Essential Practices of Great Leaders”. She is the President of LCH Resources Limited, a Human Resources Coaching and Consulting Organization.

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