We all know that trust is an essential component in any relationship. This is a given in a domestic environment — the thought of not being able to trust your spouse or partner is a truly awful proposition and is likely to spell the end of the relationship, while any acquaintance you cannot trust can never be called a friend.
Trust is an equally important element in a business environment, so it might come as something of a surprise that, while it is a word that is often bandied about when it comes to customer relationships, it is not mentioned so often in terms of employee trust within the organisation.
We have discussed a number of important management techniques over recent weeks regarding how to get the best out of employees by active listening, team building, conflict management and a variety of other topics. But the truth is, not one of these methods is likely to be effective if your team doesn’t have trust in you.
Truth and transparency
Nobody trusts a liar. But being completely truthful and transparent is not always as simple as it sounds in the corporate environment. Think about some of the following questions you might be asked:
- Is my job secure?
- Will we be getting a bonus this year?
- Is that major contract going to be renewed?
It is tempting under circumstances like these to give the answers that people want to hear, or to evade the question. But part of a manager’s job is to share bad news, and while nobody wants to hear that they will not be receiving a pay rise this year, it is ten times worse to be given the impression they will get one and then be let down later.
Of course, there are some things that you can’t share with everyone, but it’s better to be transparent and open about the fact, and let your team know that they will get the answers as soon as you’re able to make them public knowledge.
Take the blame, share the credit
Sometimes being the boss means being magnanimous. Make sure the team gets the credit when things go well, but be ready to take it on the chin in times of trouble. Saying that you have the team’s interest is one thing, but talk is cheap. Adopting this approach sends out the message that you practice what you preach.
The more senior the manager, the more distant he or she is perceived to be, and the less trustworthy. It might not be fair, but that’s the way the human brain works. It is therefore important to bridge that perceived gap and let your team know that you are still human. Getting to know people personally and taking five minutes at the coffee machine to chat about the weather or last night’s football match can make all the difference.
One of the dangers of getting to know your staff better is that you will inevitably have more in common with some than others. If it was outside work, there are probably some with whom you would strike up friendships, and others you might never speak to again. This is where you sometimes have to walk a thin line. If you start treating certain individuals differently to others, for example by constantly chatting or taking lunch with them, you will lose the trust of the rest of the team.