4 Ways You Can Help Build Trust with Your Most Important Stakeholders: Employees
Employees, not customers, are your organization’s most important stakeholders. Contrary to how it sometimes feels, the customer can’t be your primary focus because the house will fall if you don’t have a strong foundation. And when the bricks are tumbling down, the customers will be long gone anyway. Focus on your employees first and foremost.
Your employees are your cornerstone. They will hold up the structure of your company in good times and bad, which is why nurturing trust among your most precious stakeholders is fundamental.
In trust, we grow and flourish; we step into the biggest and best versions of ourselves. Leaders must embrace that prioritizing trust is the only way for both their organizations and the individuals at the heart of them to thrive.
Leaders have enormous influence over the abundance or lack of trust in their organizations and must make it a lasting priority rather than a one-time topic. Building a culture of trust within an organization is a two-way street; leaders must trust in employees as much as employees trust in their leaders. Therefore, we need to set trust as an expectation, rebuild it when it fails, and consistently enhance it across the company.
We have established the importance of trust, but how do we go about building trust into the foundation of our organizations? Here is a list of some tangible actions you can take to help with the trust process.
- Stop the Micromanagement
I know how hard it is for leaders of small organizations to relinquish control. I was this person and now consider myself a work in progress. My team had to plead with me for years to give up control and endless micromanaging. I never felt that I didn’t trust my team; rather, I didn’t trust myself. I was locked in a cycle of fear that everything would fall apart if I relinquished power.
Micromanagement blocks all self-motivation and stunts growth. Once I realized the damage this need to control even the most minor details was having on INGCO and how it showed nothing but a lack of trust on my part, I knew I needed to change—quickly.
Once you relinquish the need to control through micromanagement, trust will blossom at all levels of your organization and breathe oxygen back into your company.
- Overcommunicate, Early & Often
Employees are drawn to organizations that take the time to proactively communicate with them in a way they can understand. Sometimes that means communication in their preferred language. Studies show that employee retention can be improved by genuine engagement, and a fantastic way to accomplish this is by offering your employees accurate translation services.
Employee engagement activities used to be an added bonus, but now they’re an expectation.
Show trust in your employees by talking to them as they want to be talked to, and you’ll receive the gift of trust in return. Accurate and meaningful translation speaks to the listener’s heart; if employers don’t show they care about meaningfully connecting with their team, their employees will walk away. Likewise, overcommunicating early and often is one of the most accessible trust-building activities you can’t afford to overlook.
- Be Vulnerable
Vulnerability is not a bad word. Yes, all sorts of macho personalities are played on sitcoms that cast the stoic, invulnerable guy as the hero. But times have changed. Allowing and encouraging your employees to show up as themselves demonstrates to them that vulnerability is okay and expected. Vulnerability in the workplace used to be seen as a sign of weakness, but trust me, it is the root of human connection. When you also are open and honest, you display the strength and capacity of vulnerable leadership. The willingness to express your feelings in words and behavior, owning who you are and what you genuinely think, opens a whole new door of opportunities with employees.
Did you know that asking someone to do something versus commanding them to do it produces oxytocin? As leaders, how we invite others in by allowing them to be vulnerable increases their ability to trust and, in turn, actually helps them commit to and carry out what you ask them to do. This is a perfect example of how vulnerability in action can help leaders accomplish their goals and build trust. Lead with honesty, a little bit of empathy, and a whole lot of vulnerability, and you’ll really move mountains.
- Establish Milestones
We love road maps, plans, and routes. In general, we like to know where we are going. Though we don’t always know how we’re going to get there, humans want to start with some sort of plan. While change and adaptation are inevitable, establishing milestones provides us with the tangible, solid ground to weather the unknown seas change brings.
Setting milestones is critical for navigating unpredictability and maintaining trust. Milestones are an excellent way to show commitment and keep your stakeholders feeling like they matter. They offer essential markers for reorienting ourselves and seeing if we’re headed in the right direction. Determining and referring to milestones is an effective way of showing you’re on track and making progress.
As your most important stakeholders, employees want to work for companies established on trust. Therefore, this essential and challenging necessity must be your focus.
Excerpted from The Language of Trust: Communicate to Build Meaningful Relationships in Business and Life.
Written by Ingrid Christensen.
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