The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you build trust with your employees?” is by John Ambrose, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Skillsoft.
We all know that trust is critical in order to build positive, sustainable workplace cultures. It is the foundation that upholds all of the values — such as respect, honesty and commitment — that build a productive workforce. Cultivating trust between employees and leadership is a process that builds over time based on consistently achieving mutual benefits and goals. It is a two-way street: Employees must believe that their leaders have the experience, skills and knowledge necessary to guide their teams, while leaders must have the confidence that their employees will support and accept their guidance to make the organization successful.
Although trust is an organic value that requires participation from all parties involved, business leaders can do a few things to be the driving force in building confidence among their workforce:
Lead from the front
What made Vince Lombardi and General Patton among the most successful and trusted leaders in their fields? Though they were different types of leaders, both led their respective teams from the front. They were active participants who led by motivating, developing and persevering alongside their teams, rather than by pushing them from behind. Trustworthy leaders do not ask or expect employees to assume risk or perform tasks they would not also assume or perform.
Sharpen your emotional intelligence (EQ) and communicate
Leaders who cultivate high EQ can foster environments ripe for trust building by successfully navigating the peaks and valleys of workplace morale. As with sports teams, trust between players may be at an all-time high when a team is winning a championship, but can quickly crumble when the team is rebuilding with new, unfamiliar players. It is the coach’s job as a leader to manage team members’ expectations, roles and emotions by communicating information openly and building relationships that allow their organizations to thrive.
Give your team freedom
An important step to building trust as a leader is feeling comfortable relinquishing some of your own power and control. Displaying your competence and commitment may have made your employees respect you, but you must show that you respect them as well in order to build a stronger connection with them. Rather than raise a team of order-takers, communicate your confidence in your employees by letting them take a front seat more often. This will allow them to grow professionally and feel confident that you trust their abilities.
Let them make mistakes
We’re all human, and we will all fall at one point or another. This is a critical trust-building moment. Show your employees that you trust them enough to let them fail, without judgment, and then help them to quickly recover and learn from the experience. Leaders should provide mentorship opportunities, training and learning resources that empower people to grow and bounce back with dignity.
Invest in them
Trust, by nature, should be a two-way street. People expect their employers to make an equal investment in them (more than just a salary) in exchange for their commitment to the team and organization. Beyond perks and bonuses, demonstrate how you value each employee as a crucial part of the team by providing growth and training opportunities.
The baseline for trust requires that employees feel valued and empowered to be successful in their roles. To cultivate and leverage trust that fosters a positive organizational culture and increases productivity, however, business leaders must show their competence through commitment to their own quality of work, and must encourage employees to step out of their comfort zones, take the lead and grow in their careers.