A few weeks ago, we wrote about the importance of integrity in leadership given the political backdrop at the time. Today, as we publish this musing, the two world leaders have been thrust painfully into the spotlight, with outcomes and investigations that once again ask the question – can we trust them?
Trusting someone is more than a feeling, it’s having a belief in them. A belief that they will do the right thing, that they will act in a fair way, that they are true to their word. This means that it’s not an instant thing: we don’t just trust our politicians because they are in these roles, and we don’t just trust leaders in the workplace because they happen to be in a position of responsibility that is ‘above’ ours. We trust people when we see and hear consistent behaviours and actions that demonstrate integrity, empathy and honesty.
So how are today’s business leaders faring when it comes to being trusted by their employees? Staggeringly, according to Gallup’s global database only a third of employees actually trust their leaders. High trust in an organisation leads to greater freedom, which leads to greater innovation. A trusting culture is a highly collaborative and one where people are confident to show the amazing things they’re capable of delivering. Gallup’s finding showed that even when there are periodic mistakes in decisions or communication (in high-trust organisations), employees will give leaders the benefit of the doubt.
It makes business sense then to put the effort in to increase trust in your organisation. How can you do that? Simon Sinek talks about building trust at work in the same way you build a loving relationship: it’s the little things that matter, like asking how someone’s doing and genuinely listening to the answer. Here are some tips:
Listen to understand, not to reply
Resist the urge to form your response while the other person is still talking
Spend time talking to people about things that matter to them
It’s not all about you. Get to know what other people care about.
Do it. Do it again. Keep doing it. Trust isn’t built overnight.
Share more about yourself
Let people see more of who you are. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
Make your actions match your words
Walk your talk. Do what you say you’ll do.
If you’re in a senior leadership role, you may be thinking that you can’t do that with all your employees and you’re right. But you know who can? Those who lead and manage your teams. In larger organisations, the perception of senior leaders is often filtered through the perceptions of front-line managers, so make sure you build trust with those you lead, and invest in developing your managers and team leads to do the same in their teams.
Be the leader, the manager, the person that others trust. There’s no greater compliment.