This is part 10 of a 10 part “how to” series covering the points in the infographic below.
I’d actually like to start the final installment of our series with a question.
Do you trust your employees immediately or do they have to earn your trust over time?
I know people who are firmly planted in both camps. I guess the same question could be asked of people that you meet, even outside of the workplace. Is it in your nature to trust right away, or are you a little more cautious and maybe even skeptical?
Whatever your modus operendi, the infogrpahic makes the case that trusting your employees is an important part of getting them to stay. I would agree with that.
Let’s look at the definition of trust, so that we can then examine what it means and what it looks like on a daily basis.
Trust – reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, or surety, of a person or thing; confidence.
Side note: I didn’t even know that “surety” was a word, but I trust that dictionary.com wouldn’t steer me wrong!
Thinking of our employees, in order to trust them, we need to rely on their integrity, strength, ability and surety. We have to have some confidence that they will do as directed.
I can hear some of you now… “if that’s the criteria, forget it! I can’t trust these people.”
Before we jump on that bandwagon, there are some really interesting components to this definition that I’d like to explore. First, let’s talk about integrity.
A common definition for integrity is: doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Integrity is also about being honest, especially in the face of adversity. In all fairness, how can we rely on our employees to act with integrity until they have been battle tested? We can get a sense of who they are and what they stand for during the interview and initial training, but until they are out on their own, we won’t really see what they are made of. Having said all that, you may think I am of the mindset that employees have to earn every bit trust that I might give them. But I’m not.
I think when an employee starts out, in order to begin fostering an environment of trust, we have to be the ones to make the first investment. We have to trust that our employees are giving us their best and extend the benefit-of-the-doubt when needed. This is not to say that people should be allowed get away with poor behavior or performance, but we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it’s an integrity issue. If we get more evidence later on that that is the case – so be it. But not right off the bat.
What I think is really interesting about this word within the confines of this definition, and the context of workplace trust, is where it actually comes from. In large part, it comes from you.
Think about it. An employees’ ability to do their job is derived from, among other things, the training they receive, the environment in which they work, the conditions under which they work (including peer relationships), and the support they get from leadership. Barring physical or mental conditions, if we cannot rely on an employees’ ability to do their job, we have to look squarely back at ourselves. What is our influence, whether direct or indirect, over their training, environment and conditions? Is the support we are providing adequate? Do we trust our own abilities enough to be able to truly set our employees up for success? Is our frustration in their abilities (or lack of) really a reflection of our ability (or lack of)?
These are not easy questions, but they are important.
When you are confident something is going to happen, you can feel it. Some people feel it in their gut, others feel it as a warm and soothing calm. Either way, you feel it to the point of knowing it. It’s similar to having confidence in a friend or colleague… you just know they are going to come through. That confidence is built on your experiences with them, and it takes time to develop those relationships.
Showing that you have confidence in others is part of trusting them and ultimately keeping them on staff. In my previous jobs, I could tell when my manager had confidence in me… he would assign me something and let me run with it. If the confidence was lacking (perhaps because of higher stakes, a tighter deadline, or my lack of experience in that area), additional check in points were scheduled and work progress was evaluated more stringently.
But honestly, that was a growth opportunity for me. The stakes were higher, and once that project as completed successfully, the confidence my manager had in me was also higher.
So bringing this back to the 30,000 foot view of trust, I think we can all agree that it’s important to show our employees that we trust them. It’s critical to their confidence in us and themselves, and helps create an environment where employees can learn and grow.
If we don’t trust them, we have to examine that very carefully. Early on, there may not be enough mutual experience to determine how much actual trust is there. Fair enough. Once they are in the role for awhile, if we still don’t trust them or their abilities, is it because they aren’t trying, don’t have the aptitude or just don’t want to do it? Many of those answers point back to us in one way or another.
Since this is a “how to” post, we can’t just give you the philosophical side of the story without the practical side. And there are two practical sides.
How to TRUST your employees:
- Just trust ’em – don’t be so skeptical. Easier said that done in some cases, I get it. But not everyone is automatically against you or a moron. Unfortunately, when you think very skeptically about a person, you tend to treat them that way. That doesn’t foster a lot of trust.
- Give them a chance – Allow them to show you (through actions over time) that they can be trusted. If they make a mistake (without malicious intent), guide them back on to the correct path.
How to SHOW your employees that you trust them:
- Listen to them
- Use words like “we” and “us”
- Ask their opinion
- Tell them, “I trust you”
- Follow-up without micromanaging
- Hold them accountable to goals and standards of performance
- Praise in public (where and when appropriate), discipline in private
- Coach employees – help them help you find solutions
- Explain WHY you have confidence in them – what have they done in the past that signifies they are ready for an upcoming challenge?
- Share pertinent information
- Admit a mistake
That last one is a tricky one for some. “… admit a mistake? No way! People will laugh, point fingers and lose all respect.” I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. When you own up to making a mistake, people see you as more human, more real, and more like them. People trust real.
There is also a vulnerability in admitting a mistake that employees tend to find very comforting and endearing. They also don’t have to deal with the obvious cover-up and back-peddling that often happens when trying to minimize a mistake. If anything, that behavior will quickly degrade any amount of trust your employees may have had in you.
Like respect and communication, trust is a two-way street. Make sure it’s going both ways!
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the series!! Comments and questions are always welcome!
About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.