Building trust in leadership

BY ROBERT MANDEYA

Like any good relationship, the root of its success is based on trust. Without trust, nothing works.

It doesn’t matter if you buy the fanciest uniforms, give your employees all the free food and beer in the world, without trust, none of it matters. Many managers make the mistake of equating employee engagement with employee happiness, but it’s so much more than that.

As an employee, you could be happy at work, but if you do not receive enough recognition, feedback, or have any opportunities for personal growth, you will never be engaged. In my previous installments, I raised the issue of core values as key determinants of leadership style. I will in this installment explore one key value that leaders must nurture at the workplace and that is “trust”

Moral decay

If employees trust you, and they perceive that what you’re doing is honestly in their best interest, and that you mean well, and have good intentions, then they will be engaged, and ready to perform. Unfortunately, there are way too many employers who either don’t get this, or realize how awful their company and brand is, and choose to hide it from employees. Particularly in Zimbabwe, this trait or quality of “Trust” seems to have vanished in our leadership, partly due to the debilitating effects of economic meltdown or just mere moral decadence fallen on our society.
Whatever the case might be, a lot of people also don’t realize how similar our relationships are with coworkers as they are with our significant others. It should be noted that if in your romantic relationships, trust is the most important thing, and is the core foundation of any healthy, long lasting relationship, so is the same for work situation.

Building trust at the workplace

There are several ways that an employer can build trust among his team, but the most important thing when trying to build trust, by far, is to be real and sincere. Just a word of caution: “Seriously, don’t even try to fake it, you will get caught, because it’s blatantly obvious, and it will completely backfire on you. If you’re not ready to do it properly, don’t do it at all.” What I mean by this, is they won’t trust you unless you show them that you trust them first. Once you do this, they’ll be much more open to trusting you.

Show true passion for your work

A lot of our leaders have a tendency of faking passion, but this is not sustainable and soon your people will be able to tell that it’s fake. If you’re not passionate about what you are doing, how can you expect to motivate an entire team? When you show your passion to the other employees, they’ll be able to tell, and you should be communicating that passion to them. Try explaining to your employees why you’re so passionate, and how they could potentially become as passionate as you.

Share your knowledge

Being knowledgeable about your industry or product instills trust in your team, because it shows them that you actually know what you’re talking about. Once they know that you know what you’re talking about, they’ll be more comfortable turning to you for questions and decisions.
Also, when you want to tell them to do something, they’ll be much more inclined to listen, since they’ll think that you probably know what you’re talking about. If you’re not that knowledgeable about your industry or product, become knowledgeable very quickly. This is important for any leader. Good leaders are good readers and are knowledgeable.

Be honest

Business is different from political party politics. In business when you say something, you better mean it. This is the easiest way to ruin the trust with your employees. I’ve had this happen to me in the past, and after a few times of forgiving my manager, it was impossible to take anything he said seriously again. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep, and don’t be shy to admit you’ve made a mistake. Instead of shifting the blame, and assuming none of the responsibility, own up to whatever mistake you’ve made. Your employees will respect you more because of it.

Show true compassion

Again, I wrote “true” in the title for this one because I’ve seen this one being faked first hand.
Sometimes employers talk the talk, but don’t really walk the walk. If they care about their employees, then they’ll offer them things like a flexible schedule, opportunities personal growth, and make sure their employees have a good work life balance. This one is also a back and forth relationship, and when you show compassion for them, they’ll end up showing compassion for you. If there’s something going on in your life at some point, employees will be much more understanding of you taking some time off work if you let them do the same.

Say thank you and I’m sorry

A lot of these are related, in the sense that they all lead back to things like trust and honesty. There are so many manapersonal level is a great way to build trust, by becoming closer with them. Make sure to take some time to have face-to-face meetings, and make sure to go around and personally ask employees how they’re doing. I can’t stress how important that personal touch is. A nice idea is to potentially take Friday afternoons, and use them as a time to have an informal chat with coworkers

Know employees personally

Getting to know your employees on a more human, and personal level is a great way to buildtrust, by becoming closer with them. Make sure to take some time to have face-to-face meetings,and make sure to go around and personally ask employees how they’re doing. I can’t stress howimportant that personal touch is. A nice idea is to potentially take Friday afternoons, and use them as a time to have an informal chat with co-workers Another thing that’s important to mention is that in order to get trust from your employees, you first have to give it.
Mandeya is a certified executive leadership coach, corporate education trainer and management consultant and founder of Leadership Institute of Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw/ or info@lird.co.zw, Facebook: @lirdzim and Mobile/WhatsApp: +263 719 466 925.