As a leader, your priorities are vast. However, nothing takes a higher priority than building trust in your team and organization. Without trust, you get high turnover, reduced performance and revenue, and a lot of stress. With trust and a good plan, your firm can flourish.
In working with organizations, my horses repeatedly show that people move toward trust and away from fear. Horses are masters at reading energy and can find the truth of an organization no matter what the corporate mission statement says. To horses, a lack of trust indicates a source of fear and triggers a flight, fight or freeze response. The same is true for individuals working in an organization lacking trust. Your employees may not be “running away” in an obvious manner, but research has shown that a brain under stress is unable to recall and process information as quickly as it can in a more relaxed state. Our flight/flight/freeze response is instinctive and deep. Once triggered, it can wreak havoc if left unaddressed.
Several of my high performer clients left key positions because of a lack of trust at their former organizations. One was in charge of a $100 million mission critical project, another led international efforts for a prestigious law firm, and another directed legacy projects for a government contractor. In all cases, the firms were surprised by these resignations and the effects of the departures were devastating.
As a leader, you must address the source of fear and replace it with trust. Especially in times of uncertainty and change. Break down defenses through authentic dialogue and develop a clear plan to move forward. Trust yourself and trust your people to work the plan. You don’t have to have all the answers, but you do need to communicate and take charge.
Here are five tips to boost trust in your organization.
- Share the broader vision – Clarify where the firm is headed and explain how each team contributes to the overall mission and vision. Roll this out to the individual level so each knows the importance of his or her specific role.
- Empower – Know the strengths of your team and use them. If you don’t know the strengths, use an assessment tool like Strengthfinders.
- Communicate regularly to build engagement. Connect in person or through webcasts if staff is nonlocal. Be frank and honest about the status and progress of efforts. People know the difference between a canned response from corporate and heartfelt communication. A canned response cannot be trusted. Always do what you say you’re going to do or explain why you pursued something different.
- Listen – Encourage feedback and ideas and listen carefully. Acknowledge and track feedback even if it results in no action. People like to be heard. Provide mechanisms to brainstorm new ideas in fun and creative ways. Tom and David Kelley’s Creative Confidence provides fantastic approaches.
- Recognize and appreciate your colleagues and staff. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to forget to express appreciation. Bonus generously if possible, and be sure to always give credit to teams and individuals for superior efforts and to those working hard in the trenches. A simple “thank-you” from a leader goes a long way. Look for and acknowledge the “good” and you will get more “good.” Our worlds are shaped by our focus.
Building trust is a process and takes time. There is no fast track. Enlist the help of your most trusted colleagues and consider support from a coach or consultant to help you maintain objectivity, listen and see the truth. The rewards are priceless – the trust of others and a thriving organization.