Cynicism, stark polarisation, and distrust are sadly commonplace in today’s society. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a poll revealed that people’s trust in government in particular had plummeted to its lowest level in forty years, and the current petrol crisis has further intensified the debate on whether trust in our leadership can be restored.
The government’s experience highlights the importance of maintaining trust with the people that fuel your organisation. A single episode of mismanagement or a slight misstep can see trust quickly erode, beyond recovery.
Leaders who understand that fragility and prioritise building trust can leverage it to create more supportive, productive, and motivating work environments. But that’s easier said than done when most organisations are undergoing significant transformation after a turbulent 18-months.
Here are five practical things that your leadership team can do to infuse trust into the fabric of your culture and use it to bind their teams together.
1. Make hybrid and flex working real
We all recognise that people want more control and flexibility over the way they work and where they work. Getting the best out of people involves putting your trust in them to make the right decisions.Whatever policy your company has put in place for hybrid working, your leadership team needs to be consistent in how it is implemented. Don’t put the policy in place and then mandate people to come into the office. Be clear what hybrid means and why. Trust your people to work together to define how and when you should connect and work in person and don’t be afraid to pause, listen and recalibrate your approach if needed.
2. Communicate transparently and authentically about the future
Leaders should set clear guidelines and expectations for teams, communicate often about their vision for the business and lead by example. Fear about job losses and instability in the economy is high, so maintaining confidence in the direction of an organisation and the ability of leaders to drive the business forward is critical.
Communicating authentically with absolute clarity can help.Whether your leaders are posting on social media or addressing their team in a townhall, they should be accessible and use every opportunity to deepen connections and build relationships. And they shouldn’t be afraid to show vulnerability because that too will help to provoke feelings of trust amongst employees.
3. Recognise success when it happens and give people credit for their work
Recognition is a basic human need. People want acknowledgement for their hard work and recognising successes helps tore-emphasis that your leaders care about the contribution people are making to your business. It can also help to build trust and resilience and empowers people to do their best work while bringing their whole selves to the business. But recognition must go beyond an annual recognition programme and monthly shout-outs to have impact.
4. Keep promises and empathise
More than ever, leaders need to mean what they say and deliver against the promises they make. It’s often hard to balance the growing expectations of employees with the realities of running a business, but in today’s climate leaders need to follow through and do what they say they will or communicate why it hasn’t happened honestly.
Leaders also need to listen more to understand people’s needs, acknowledging their concerns and empathising with the challenges they face.
5. Trust people to learn from mistakes
Creating an environment where people feel that they can make mistakes and own them without fear of being judged, marginalised, or disciplined. People need to feel psychologically safe for trust to thrive and empowering them to take risks and learn from mistakes quickly rather than chastising them can fuel innovation and deepen trust. So, leaders should lead by example, give people the freedom to misstep while encouraging them to take accountability, and role model the behaviours they expect to see in return.
We know that cultures built on trust create better performing businesses. But sustaining trust requires intentional daily effort. If you think that you need to embed trust into the culture of your business, get in touch. We’d love to chat.