Six Steps for Building Trust with Employees
In a recent BCWI survey just over half of the respondents identified building trust with employees as one of the most significant challenges facing leaders today. This is of little wonder in a year where distrust seems to be growing. We don’t know if we can trust the news, the medical profession, or politicians just to name the most obvious. Given the challenges the pandemic has presented for both ministries and businesses, building trust with employees is more important, and maybe more challenging, than ever before.
How, in the midst of all of this uncertainty, can you build trust? Think about the people you trust. What inspires your trust in someone? Chances are it isn’t because they always have it all together and have all the answers. You come to know people over time, by sharing small bits of your life with each other, including fears and struggles, as well as victories.
1. Start simply.
Do you know your people on a personal level? The easiest way to get to know people is to ask them questions about themselves. Let them know you too. You don’t like broccoli. George H. W. Bush’s well-known dislike for broccoli made him relatable. Or maybe traffic makes you crazy. Or you and your spouse binge-watch The Great British Baking Show on Friday nights. The point is to find common ground with your team and begin building trust on those things you have in common.
2. Be open and honest with people.
Ask people how they are doing and don’t settle with the usual “Fine” – unless you want to acknowledge that it stands for “Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.” Be willing to listen to how people are REALLY doing and be ready to act in some way if appropriate. Be vulnerable enough to admit that maybe you are not always fine either.
3. Practice trust.
Trust goes both ways. If you want employees to trust you, you will have to trust them. This includes empowering them to leverage their experience and skills to do what they do best in their role in the organization. It also means having the integrity to hold confidences when necessary and to be willing to have difficult conversations when the need arises.
4. Own your fears, mistakes, and failures.
It has been said that sharing successes builds walls, but sharing failures builds bridges. As leaders, sharing our failures seems counterintuitive. How can we provide Inspirational Leadership if we are sharing our failures? Taking responsibility for our actions, especially our mistakes and failures, is an absolute must if we want to create a flourishing culture based on trust.
5. Give credit when and where it is due.
Provide recognition for the contributions of individuals and teams whenever possible. Expressing genuine appreciation for a job well done is key. But so too is acknowledging the day to day work of employees who are faithful in even the little things. Let employees know you understand and value their contribution to making the organization successful. Most employees will downplay the work that they do on a daily basis, viewing it as mundane and even immaterial to the success of the organization. But what would happen if the person updating addresses and emails in the database didn’t do their job? Or the person in accounts payable didn’t do theirs?
6. Cast vision.
We all know it is the primary responsibility of a leader to cast the big picture vision for the future of the organization. As leaders, we must also help our teams and employees understand their importance and role in achieving that vision. From the receptionist to the janitor to the CFO, every person in your organization contributes to the effectiveness of your ministry or business. We build trust with our employees when they know that we see, understand, and value their contribution to accomplishing the goals of the organization.
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