Do your Employees Trust You?

by Paula Milligan, IMI faculty associate on the High Impact Leadership and High-Performance Teams and Managing Director of the LALLO Ltd Consultancy.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships”
– Stephen Covey

Yet, it seems we live in a time where people are trusting less and less. Throw in the dramatic trend towards “Fake News” people are now unsure and sceptical of anything they officially read, quickly becoming one of the biggest threats to democracy and free debate. We view our politicians, health service, institutions and companies with suspicion and doubt, with all their failings clearly documented and embraced for all to believe, or not?

Circles of friends and families are being pitted against each other competitively under the unceasing scrutiny and all-seeing eye of social media. Framed by the fact that we ask Google to sum up whatever information we need, instantly allowing us to become experts in any known field. Blissful ignorance, simple living and blind leaps of faith seem to be a thing of the past.

Therefore, forming real relationships at home and in the work-place has become more challenging and yet more important than ever. Real human interaction and connection is not something that can be simulated, it is something that is earned, felt, worth cherishing and worth holding onto.

The Threat of Doing Nothing

So, when trust is not present within teams and across organisations key and often challenging conversations tend not to happen internally. Unresolved problems become a constant thread of tension that is never relieved.

Your people become so accustomed to them that working around the issues becomes a way of life. Learning what not to say and what not to do to flare up a conflict. An entire workforce that become highly skilled at a dance of avoidance. On the surface this may look OK but, this is a highly dysfunctional culture where talent will leave, performance will be mediocre and results will stagnate.

Transfer this over to entire organisations where trust levels are low, the impact and drain is extensive and staggering. When we do not feel trust and as a result feel safe we will ultimately do things to damage and hurt the culture and the company.

The High Price of Low Trust

Research shows that only 49% of employees trust senior management, and only 28% believe CEOs are a credible source of information.

When trust is low, in a company or in a relationship, it places a hidden “tax” on every transaction: every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is taxed, bringing speed down and sending costs up.

After many years of working as a business consultant, I have witnessed the impact of not addressing a lack of trust. It leaks time and money out of every area and action of the business. Compensating for poor behaviours, hidden agendas, siloed working and poor results, taking triple the amount of time to get things done.

In contrast, where high trust levels are in place something very different comes to light. The very language used changes from “Me” to “Us”. Communication, relationships and productivity soar allowing decisions to be made with increasing conviction and speed. People feel valued, recognised and part of something.

Achieving a real culture of trust is one of the biggest leadership challenges you will ever face and yet one of the smartest and most strategic ways to improve bottom line results.

The Secret Ingredient for Trust

So, what is the Secret Ingredient? What was the key factor that allowed one leader to succeed where others failed? What makes one person fantastic at creating and sustaining highly effective relationships and the other repeatedly failing?

Think about this……do we as leaders need to always have the answers? Can we? Is there value in bringing a “Confident Vulnerability” into our leadership brands that clearly recognizes what we as leaders bring to the table and what we don’t and can’t – is this not the very reason we formed a brilliant team of minds and souls where “together” we have all the answers.

What this approach brings to the table is “Trust” and with that firmly engaged, where we can go knows no limits.