Studies have shown that employee trust directly correlates to improved employee performance. In workplaces where employees have a culture of fear, they are less likely to act innovatively, share ideas or take initiative.
This can also inhibit a company’s growth as team members won’t lean in and collaborate with one another. Having an ‘everyone for themselves’ mentality prevents your staff from reaching for the next level together.
“High-performing employees will likely perform well, even if they lack trust in their manager because they are oftentimes intrinsically motivated to show up and do their best; however, based on loads of research done on the topic of trust, there seems to be a clear indication that trust further improves performance,” says Jonathan Reynolds, CEO of Titus Talent Strategies, a nationwide recruiting agency. “When people trust you, they will likely work harder for you.”
Reynolds adds that this has to be reciprocal and leaders need to work just as hard for their people and work alongside them when things get tough. He says one of the key methods to build trust with your team is to communicate.
“I have never seen an engagement report where people didn’t ask for more communication,” Reynolds says. “Even if you think you have communicated something enough times, send a follow-up email, have the message trickle down in team meetings, and say it again. Ensure clear communication from the top down and don’t ever believe it’s enough. On the flip side, ensure there is communication from the bottom up as well. Ensure your employees have a forum to speak and know they are being heard from 1:1s with their managers to all company huddles.”
While building trust is important, maintaining it is just as critical. This comes back to communication, as your tone, intention and frequency determine the type of relationship you have with your team.
“In the moments where leaders get to connect with others (frequency), your tone sets the intention,” he says. “If anything is off, it can erode your brand. Each moment of exposure to our team members is a moment to make or break our brand with them. All touchpoints should be intentional both in tone and frequency.”
If your company is larger and you can’t reach out to all of your employees firsthand, Reynolds says it is important to develop your next-level leaders as you cannot be the only voice of vision and inspiration.
“All ‘people leaders’ and even individual contributors who display leadership characteristics need to have the ability to earn trust…to create inspiration for those that they lead,” Reynolds says.
Soft skills are necessary to establish and maintain trust. Some of these skills include authenticity, listening, appreciation and empathy.
“I would argue that the skills that people consider soft are actually much harder to learn than many technical skills because these skills are nuanced, meaning you can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach with soft skills,” Reynolds says. “It takes a conscious effort to build any skill and these soft skills, the ones it takes to build relationships and trust, are critical to the success of the business. Take courses, ask for feedback, record yourself so you can begin to point out your own learning moments. Ask your employees for feedback as well.”