6 Ways To Build Trust Into Your Culture?
I recently read that every problem companies experience with their employees’ springs from the same root cause: there is too little trust in the environment. At the time I thought to myself that this is exactly the same for challenges team members have with their manager and/or leader. There is too much fear. Too little trust and too much fear in a workplace has a name: it's called a toxic work environment.
Poor performance, high turnover, problem employees, tension between teams, burnout, political infighting and lack of commitment -- they are all symptoms of a broken culture. And as I noted earlier managers and leaders often don't realise that they create their own problems. Leadership training can solve the biggest challenges.
People show up to work ready to get something done and engage their brains. Nobody comes to work saying to themselves, “How much mess can I make today?”. The reason people get bored and discouraged, as opposed to engaged and excited at work, and don't get much done is because there is something broken in the environment.
Managers and business owners don't usually get defensive when somebody points out that their facility's roof is leaking or that there's mould in the pipes. These are physical problems that affect the work environment in a big way. When your roof is leaking or there's mould in the pipes, you call somebody to come out and fix the problem immediately. However, many leaders get defensive when somebody points out that their culture is simply broken. They say "No, our culture is fine -- we just have bad employees!" or “You should have seen it a couple of years ago, it was much worse” and ignore the problem.
That's their choice, but it's the most expensive choice they can make. How can employees who are afraid of getting in trouble for making a mistake or arriving to work three minutes late perform at their peak? How can they perform at all?
Sounds almost took simple but talk about fears, vulnerability and trust as inhibitors and accelerators of business performance. For many leaders, this is the hardest step to take. We have been trained not to talk about our fears. If there is a high level of fear in your organisation already, employees may choose to stay quiet rather than tell the truth about your toxic culture even when the topic appears on a meeting agenda. Remember actions speak louder than words so if you ask for input use your ears and mouth in the proportion you were born with. It may take time to get your employees to trust you, but that time is well spent.
Move from blame to aim. Step away from the philosophy of blaming and shaming employees for mistakes. Every mistake is a learning opportunity. If you track your employees' mistakes but say nothing about their triumphs, you are begging for the best people to leave and only the most fearful ones to stay.
Lead from the front. Get your executives in front of employees as often as possible and in the most informal settings you can arrange. Tell your CEO and VPs to show up at department meetings so they can meet and mingle with your employees in every function. Get them out among the people who report to them. If you are a CEO or VP and you're not spending half your time with non-leadership employees, you are missing out. You are not connected to your team. Let people see you making decisions and leading your staff. Let them get a sense of you beyond your title and your bio. Why be a leader if you only lead through a closed office door?
Put the human back into business. The fourth way to build trust in your culture is to value your employees as people more than you value them as production units. You get to show how much you value your employees every day, in a thousand ways. When you make human decisions instead of mechanical ones based only on dollars and cents or "operational efficiency," people notice.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Use a human voice in your communications with employees. Get rid of the terse, governmental jargon used too often in business communications, and address your employees as the brilliant human beings they are.
Ask your team what they need, then listen. The sixth way to build trust in your culture is to ask your employees how they're doing, what they think and what they'd like to see at work -- all the time. Don't do it through an anonymous survey. When you have to promise anonymity to get honest answers from your employees, you've already lost the war between fear and trust. Ask your employees every day how they're doing -- face to face or on the phone. Every supervisor and every HR person can ask "How are you holding up? How are things going?" Of course, once you ask you have to take the feedback seriously. You have to listen, and if appropriate you have to act. That's the biggest part of a manager's or HR person's job!
There is no higher priority for any leadership team or individual leader than to build trust on his or her team. You can start right now!