When You Lead With Trust, They Will Follow
When I think about all of the different dynamics that combine to create a successful workplace, one of the most important factors, in my mind, is trust. In a trusting environment, we’re empowered to make decisions and encouraged to take risk. We’re free to innovate, learn and grow. And business is better for it. A 2014-2015 survey conducted by global consultant Interaction Associates shows high-trust companies significantly outperform other organizations in achieving key business goals—including customer loyalty retention, competitive market position and revenue growth.
As leaders, we have an obligation to build and nurture a trusting workplace environment. And when people ask my advice about how to establish trust with a team, I tell them this: Start with a single step.
Walk around the office. Visit with your team. Ask how they’re doing personally and professionally. Develop a relationship that allows each of you to share thoughts and ideas. Make sure they know their opinion matters. And make the effort when everything’s going smoothly. By being visible when times are good, I’ve found you can establish a foundation of trust that’ll help to defuse emotion and relieve anxiety when issues arise.
One day last year, I was copied on a 6:30 a.m. email from a senior leader about a situation where someone on my team took a risk that didn’t quite pan out. When I got to the office that morning, the first thing I did was go to her desk and say, “I saw the email. How are you feeling?” Because we had established a trusting relationship, she knew I respected her expertise, would listen to her side of the story and would have her back. The issue got resolved. Her confidence was intact. And today, she continues to be a highly valued contributor to our team and its mission.
Imagine how that might have played out in a less trusting environment. She may have spent a lot of time and energy trying to protect herself from the boss’s wrath. Instead, her efforts were channeled into finding a solution. And in the end, it was an experience that had a lasting, positive impact on her and on our company. I’ve since heard her share the story often, saying, “This is a place where leaders support you, where it’s okay to take risks and learn.”
By creating an environment where employees feel it’s safe to take risk, you will open the door to innovation. In a trusting environment, people will give everything they have. They’ll be energized, empowered and bring their best ideas to the table. Isn’t that what every organization wants?
Of course, establishing a trusting environment doesn’t happen overnight. Trust is earned over time and must be nurtured by leaders who understand its value and make the effort to build genuine relationships. So take a walk around the office. Be visible. Get to know your team and help them get to know you. When you lead with trust, they will follow.