We live in unsettling times in many ways. We are constantly reminded of the need to protect ourselves from identity thieves, credit card scammers, people laying in wait in parking lots to hi-jack vehicles and sociopaths tampering with packaging in the grocery store. We are bombarded with headlines that scream about lies from politicians, fraud by financiers and broken trust in celebrity marriages. Almost everywhere you turn, you are warned not to trust anyone. We are conditioned to withhold trust.
This conditioning impacts every area of life, and the workplace is no exception. In my work with organizations I often discover that there is a common problem for leaders – employees who don’t trust them. The challenge for leaders and managers today is breaking down the barriers of suspicion and self-protection and learn how to earn the trust of their employees.
I came across an article in Forbes Magazine by Glenn Llopis that listed seven characteristics that undermine the confidence employees have in their leaders. I found them thought-provoking and have added some of my thoughts.
1. Lack of Courage – Leadership demands being brave enough to stand up for your people and to fight for their best interests. It also requires standing up to your staff, not being afraid to follow through with company policies or intimidated by a threat of being unpopular. Employees do not trust a leader who backs down from a challenge out of fear.
2. Hidden Agendas – It won’t take long for your staff to figure out if your only motivation to show up for work is for your own advancement or benefit. They will not trust a leader who is willing to compromise the welfare of the team or the integrity of the company for his or her personal agenda. This is a challenge to examine your attitude about your role. If your plan is to grow into greater success, I encourage you to do that, but while you are in your current position, be sure you are “all there” and performing your duties with integrity.
3. Self-Centered – A leader, by definition, must have a higher perspective than, “What’s in it for me?” Employees trust a leader who considers all of the important factors of the job: the vision, the goals, the processes and the people and is committed to the overall success of the department, project or company as well as promoting and encouraging the success of the workers as individuals. Leadership is an honor, but it includes responsibility for others.
4. Reputation Issues – As a leader, you are the person “in front”, and others will be constantly watching, observing… and talking about what they see. It is up to you to maintain a strong, positive reputation by conducting yourself in a manner that gives your employees reason to believe you are worthy of their trust and respect. Many young leaders learn the hard way that you cannot be “one of the guys” and then expect your team members to trust your authority over them. Remember also that your business reputation can be significantly impacted by your social media image and your personal life. I am not suggesting that you cannot be yourself, but if you want your staff to trust you, make every effort to be your best self.
5. Inconsistent Behavior – One of the complaints many employees have is that they don’t know what to expect when they interact with their boss. When rules and procedures are followed one day but not the next, people are left feeling uncertain and insecure, which undermines trust. If your leadership is inconsistent because you are unsure of the rules, make it a priority to clarify them. If your inconsistency comes from your moods, I must encourage you to look into why there is a wide variation between “good days” and “bad days.”
6. Don’t Get Their Hands Dirty – One of the greatest compliments a boss can receive is an employee saying, “When work gets really busy, she comes out of the office to help.” Or, “He is willing to do what it takes to get the job done.” As a leader, you need to spend most of your time performing your primary responsibilities and trusting your employees to do their jobs, but when you pitch in alongside your staff to meet a need, you will earn their respect and trust.
7. Lack a Generous Purpose – I can’t help but think of Ebenezer Scrooge, who was stingy with the heating coal for poor Bob Cratchet as he worked in his ice-cold office. I understand that, as a leader, you are responsible for holding expenses to a budget and saving as much money as possible. But I also understand that employees won’t trust you if you withhold funding for necessary tools for their jobs or if you refuse to make their working conditions as tolerable as possible. Employees trust a leader who values them enough to create a great workplace and demonstrates sincere generosity.
Always remember that, from your employees’ point of view, perception is reality. As you consider these seven characteristics, I encourage you to put yourself in your employees’ shoes and make an honest assessment of your leadership practices. If you see yourself in any of these weaknesses, take steps today to make sure you eliminate these trust-busters from your leadership style.
What you have done to earn the trust of your employees? Or what does your supervisor do to either strengthen or weaken your trust in their leadership?
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Todd is a licensed psychologist, executive coach, published author, and national conference and seminar speaker. He has been a featured expert on national and local radio talk shows and television news programs.