“The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it's very difficult to build and very easy to destroy.”
- Thomas J. Watson
Is there a more fragile component in any relationship other than trust? I mean, when you really think about it, fulfilling and prosperous connections are either built or broken by a simple, yet extremely powerful word – TRUST!
The employee/employer relationship isn’t quite as sturdy as say the ones we have with family and friends. Small transgressions, little omissions and even bigger boo-boos aren’t as easily repaired and take much more time and work to re-build. I think it’s fair to say within the workplace, trust is earned and tested regularly because the power imbalance is more prevalent.
So, what can we do if we have a trust issue? Well, first, let’s get real that it is in fact a trust issue! Trust can’t be hidden in verbiage such as engagement. Engagement is the by-product of trust. No number of BBQs, gift certificates and empty “way to go” pats on the back will turn a distrustful workforce into an engaged and retained team.
First step – get real and acknowledge the reasons that have created the dis-trust in the first place. And when I say get real, I mean it. Don’t finger point or pass the blame buck. Get real with yourself as a leader. Admitting there is a problem and owning that problem equals accountability. Accountability and awareness are the beginning steps to fixing the problem.
Next, put a plan in place and start to regain confidence. Dis-trust within the workplace will manifest with a lack of confidence with those in leadership. The only way to come back to a place of calm is to provide communication openly and regularly. You made a mistake – say so. You can see there is a problem in your team – talk it out. Unclear job or project expectations? Clear it up! In my experience, very little is solved when we retreat from the issue. It may feel awkward, and it may be hard, but creating an open and safe communication loop will start to close the trust gap.
But it only starts with communication. Once you have the lines open, you need to start to show meaningful action. What good are surveys, employee feedback sessions and issue/action meetings if nothing ever comes of it. There are four very powerful words I have always had in my office: Follow Up, Follow Through. Simply put, follow up when you can’t do something and follow through when you can. And then guess what we do? We communicate these things again and again and again. As many times as we need to in meaningful, authentic ways.
It takes courage to step to the stage, put your hand up and say to your team “I have made a mistake” or “We acknowledge we didn’t get it right, but we are here now to do what is needed”. It takes courage and it earns respect. Empty bravado will continue to see people disengage and run for the next job out there. When we lead a team, we lead them through the good and the bad. When things are bad our teams look to us to get them through. When we take our hands of the wheel, our employees will stop trusting us as the driver. Then when we put our hands back in place, they will become the nervous backseat driver constantly looking for the brakes until they know we have control.
The good news is, it can be fixed! You just need to want to fix it!
We have more for you to read