In this era of uncertainty, trust is the hottest currency around. How big is your bank account?
Trust is defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
The optimistic trust in leadership so prevalent during times of prosperity has gone the way of job opportunities and pay increases; shrinking to non-existent.
And that’s a problem.
At the core, people are driven by similar needs. Maslow describes this phenomenon in his hierarchy of needs theory. When looking at the pyramid, it’s easy to see how jobs are so critical to our sense of well-being. We spend a great portion of our days dedicated to obtaining resources to meet our needs intellectually, physically, financially, etc. The most rewarding jobs meet needs across several areas.
While interviewing several professionals about their career choices, it became apparent that those with the most rewarding jobs describe the most fulfillment in the areas of self-actualization and esteem. The highest paid were not necessarily the most satisfied.
On the other hand, those who were dissatisfied with their jobs described feeling under-valued, disrespected, suppressed, insecure and anxious.
Gaining Trust without the Gold Dust
I am a follower AND a leader. It depends on which day of the week and what time of day you ask me. As a follower who has looked to various leaders for direction, I’ll give you some tips on how to put the troops at ease. These days, you may not have the budget for raises but that’s no reason to let them wallow in despair. Here’s how to build trust and keep their spirits high:
1. Surprise and delight them. Everyone appreciates free stuff. Surprises are even better. It can be as simple as providing snacks or treating the troops to lunch. For a while, I was the candy maven in my office. You would be surprised by the amount of simple delight a piece of free candy can generate.
Holidays offer an even better opportunity to show your appreciation. If you pay attention, you can pick up on the uniqueness within your team and buy gifts throughout the year to avoid a frantic holiday rush. Be creative. Find something reasonably priced that you can get everyone, but with slight variations. For instance, last year, I purchased silver necklaces for a group of friends, each with their first initial as the pendant. The same, but different. It was a big hit!
2. Celebrate your wins. Let’s be honest. Morale is low and tension is high. Create bright spots in the work week by celebrating your team wins. Create something that your staff will look forward to on a regular basis. Keep it simple. The goal is to show your appreciation while making yourself accessible, approachable and visible. You want your team to breathe a sigh a of relief when they see you stroll by each morning. Your presence means everything will be okay. When your team associates you with predictability and stability, trust is just around the corner.
3. Be transparent. As your followers, we understand that you can’t tell us everything but do tell us something. There’s nothing worse than the anxiety and resentment that builds in the midst of a leader who does not address his troops. Oh, we know what is going on. There’s always the well-connected amongst us who know what is being said behind closed doors and when we don’t hear it from you directly (eventually), we despise you for it. And how can we trust someone we despise?
You don’t need to risk your job by spilling the proverbial executive beans (unless you want..that’s cool too). Share what truth you can. Don’t hide in your office during the tough times or appear to only communicate with your chosen lieutenants. You will start a mutiny. And when you’re ship starts to sink, no one will care. On the other hand, if you’re really good, your troops may actually want to comfort you after your heartfelt speech as to why there are no christmas bonuses yet again this year.
4. Be authentic. Cash-in on your uniqueness. You are the leader for a reason. Whether its skill, talent, connections or clout, you have been chosen to lead and we need to know what type of leader you are. We need to see some emotion (tears aren’t necessary) and we need to know you care. Most importantly, we need to feel that you mean what you say. That’s the quickest way to earn our trust. We know sometimes the crap rolls down hill and there’s nothing you can do about it, but if we believe you are real with us, we will stand by you.
5. Take accountability. This may seem rudimentary but I’ve worked with enough leaders to know it is not. Some leaders will turn on each other or their subordinates at the first sign of trouble. Don’t be afraid to take it on the chin for your team every once in a while. I can assure you, they have taken it on the chin for you more than once.
We’re moving beyond trust now, baby. Loyalty is right around the corner.
When you have a moment…….
Read: The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for
Leading with Trust by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe, The speed of trust by Stephen Covey and Winning by Jack Welch.