It is critical in any relationship to have trust. Whether it’s among the members on a sports team, among members of a family, or between a manager and an employee in an office, trust is the glue that holds people together. In any situation, a lack of trust means there is going to be trouble. In the office, if employees don’t trust their manager, then they will view all his decisions with suspicion. When a manager’s motives are in question, employees will be slower to accept any change, no matter how positive that change appears on the surface.

What are some key ways leaders can build trust with employees?

Act with Integrity

How do successful managers earn the trust of their employees? By behaving in trustworthy ways and constantly exhibiting  integrity. Successful managers model honesty, fairness, and consistency. The process of “climbing the ladder” can destroy a manager’s humility. Don’t let that happen to you. Remain in touch with your people and your own heart, and you’ll find the trust and respect you’re seeking.

Leadership is about making tough decisions. A leader has to prioritize results, identify workable strategies and plans, and incorporate the reality of every challenge and obstacle. And if you want your employees to trust you, these decisions must seem honest, fair, and consistent. Many leaders shy away from “courageous conversations” because they fall into the trap of wanting to be liked. But being courageous about tackling tough issues builds respect, and the good performers in your team will admire this strong leadership.

Be Approachable

The more approachable you are the more trust you will gain among your employees and  colleagues. Everyone wants  to  work  with people they trust and feel comfortable around. That comfort level comes from openness and honesty. Are you open with your team and colleagues?

To find out if the people you work with view you as approachable, just ask them. Ask your employees if they feel comfortable coming to you with concerns and issues. Ask your colleagues if they feel comfortable confiding in you. Find out from your superiors if they view you as approachable. Constantly monitor your openness.

One way to exhibit openness is to ask for feedback—and take it to heart. If you don’t already have a system for this, develop one. Make sure your team members know that you can handle constructive criticism—and you want it. Then  use this feedback for your own constant improvement—the same constant improvement you demand from them. If you find that you are not receiving feedback on ways to improve your leadership style or business processes, con- duct an anonymous survey aimed at finding out the real picture. If this elicits the constructive criticism that no one would give you before, look closely at your leadership style. Ask yourself, what am I projecting that makes people feel that they cannot be open and honest with me?

Being more open and approachable is a valuable and admirable aspiration, and it helps build trust. But one word of caution: don’t lose your leadership perspective. Stay upright and focused on the organization’s goals. You must balance the interests of employees, customers, and shareholders if you want to succeed as a leader.

Use this Decision checklist

I recommend consulting the following checklist when you’re considering a decision:

  • Is my decision  as fair as possible to all concerned?
  • Does my decision  violate the law, or my company’s  vision and values?
  • Have I applied  my heart  as well as my head  in looking at this decision?
  • Would I make the same  decision  if I knew my action  would make the six o’clock news?

As a leader, you are intent on succeeding. But the success worth achieving is success you can feel good about—in your heart, as well as intellectually. Although that doesn’t resolve all our challenges, it provides a useful guideline. My life in business has convinced me beyond a doubt that we don’t have to choose between success and a clear conscience. And if we want to build trust, we had better not ask others to make that kind of choice either. Of course, building trust involves more than just doing the right thing. It also means making sure you can follow through with other aspects of earning respect.

What do you think?


Best regards
Ken Wright