Building a Culture of Trust

“I deeply resent how we’ve infantilized the workplace. How we feel we have to apologize for having lives. That we don’t trust adults to make the right decisions. How constant connectivity/availability (or even the perception of it) has become a valued skill.”

These words, shared in a LinkedIn post by advertising executive Ian Sohn, were first posted a week or so ago, and have since taken the internet by storm, generating nearly 38,000 likes and attracting the attention of media outlets such as USA Today and GMA. At the crux, Sohn’s “never-need-to-know” list is about valuing work-life balance, empowering employees and demonstrating respect. It’s about building and maintaining a culture of trust, and it starts at the top. If you haven’t read it yet, you should, because if you ask me, Sohn gets it.

Hopefully some of you work for people like him. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a supervisor, and a supervisor’s supervisor, who see the world through the same lens he does. You see, when you trust people – and I mean really trust people – it’s good for your people, and it’s good for business. A culture of trust leads to higher engagement, happier employees, greater productivity and higher profits. Even the Harvard Business Journal agrees. But how do you go about building a culture of trust?

  1. Communicate. Thorough, frequent communication with employees is one of the most effective ways to build trust. People want to know how the company is doing, where it’s headed and how it impacts them. Understand how your employees want to be communicated with and commit to providing them with information in a timely manner.  
  2. Be transparent. Again, people want to know what’s happening. Transparency is a major driver in building trust. Going back to number one on the list – communicate. And when you do, make sure it’s open, honest and genuine.
  3. Give employees a voice. Should employees be able to weigh in on every little thing? No, of course not. But, identify opportunities for employees to provide input where it makes sense.
  4. Listen, and act. When you ask employees for their feedback and they take the time to give it, make sure you a) listen, b) put your money where your mouth is and act on the feedback, and c) communicate back both what you heard and what you’re doing to address it. 
  5. Treat people as people. Seems simple enough, yet it’s sometimes lost in the business world. Take time to get to know the people you work with – not just as employees, but as people.

Trust isn’t built over night, it happens over time. But, organizations who work hard to build and maintain a culture of trust will reap the rewards.

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