This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
It can’t be bought, demanded, forced or requested over e-mail. There’s no single action that gains or maintains it. It needs to be constantly nurtured and can change drastically based on attitude, actions and behaviour. I’m talking about trust. Without a basic foundation of trust, every relationship we have, be it personal or business, is limited from reaching its true potential.
Trust needs to flow freely within an organization. From the bright-eyed interns to the been-around-the-block senior managers, trust is essential to ensure your company thrives. But creating, maintaining and, in some instances, regaining trust in the workplace isn’t easy. So I thought I would share some tried, tested and true techniques I have gathered throughout my career on how to nurture trust without the fuss.
Say what you mean and mean what you say
Honesty really is the best policy. Just like everywhere in life, at work the words you say matter. Being open and straightforward goes a long way. If you only say what you think people want to hear, nobody benefits. Trust your colleagues by being open with them and you will find you get this back tenfold. This especially rings true when it comes to constructive criticism. Openly share your feedback and encourage your colleagues to do the same. This process ends up yielding best practices and doesn’t tear the team down, but builds it up. You’re all working toward the same goal and a team with trust is better set to achieve whatever is thrown its way.
Actions speak louder than words
Words, while powerful, can only go so far. Ultimately, we’re judged by what we actually do. Trust is built every time you complete a task or follow through on a promise. We all want to work with someone we can depend on. When you follow through, you become that reliable team member everyone respects and enjoys working with.
When I joined Virgin Mobile, I suddenly had to manage and inspire a large team as part of my day-to-day priorities. I had to show them that I valued and respected their time, otherwise I might never have gained their trust. So I structured my work day to put aside the time to check in with my team and address their questions and concerns. I recommend striving to be the type of person that people want to work with, not work around.
Everything you do can have an impact on the relationships you have with your team. The stories you tell, the funny videos you send, the causes you support, and the latest celebrity gossip you share all help to define you. While this shouldn’t discourage you from sharing your favourite Buzzfeed link or details about your latest vacation, it’s important to be mindful of how your team members will perceive it. If you want people to trust you, make sure the “you” that you’re putting forward is worthy of their confidence.
Own your mistakes
We all make mistakes – it’s a part of life to learn from them, and grow as a person. The way you try to fix the inevitable blunders is very telling about the type of person you are. I firmly believe if you’re at fault, you should ’fess up. Be accountable for your mistakes, and then work to make things right. Don’t be afraid to recognize what you’ve done. You can’t fix an issue if you don’t acknowledge that there’s a problem. If you show that you’re always willing to help those affected by your mistake, and you’re speedy with an apology, trust can be repaired very quickly.
Consider all employees as equal partners
Trust is established when everyone feels part of the group, from the newest rookie to a veteran employee. Simple, sincere gestures can go a long way, whether that’s striking up a conversation with the new guy, including someone new in company discussions, or sending an open invite to a team outing. If you show genuine interest in making everyone feel a part of something, it helps build trust within your team and in you as a leader.
Trust is the most important currency in the world of relationships. When you don’t have it in the workplace, you’ll see problems in everything from employee retention to the bottom line. When you spend the time and energy to make trust a valuable commodity, you’re rewarded with happier colleagues and an even happier workplace.