Trust. It’s the basis of any good relationship. You trust that the fruit at your favorite grocery store will be fresh and edible. You trust that your pumpkin spice latte will taste the same no matter which Starbucks you visit. You trust that your barber isn’t going to give you a mohawk when you’ve only asked for a trim. So, what happens when that trust is violated? It puts the relationship at risk and can even sever it.
The same dynamic is in play at work. You trust—assuming you’ve hired the right people—that your employees are capable and performing to the best of their abilities. But do you know whether your employees trust you? Many leaders either haven’t thought about it (they assume a two-way flow of trust) or they don’t think trust matters. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. And, if you neglect to earn and foster the trust of your employees, you won’t be a very effective leader.
Why is trust so important? We instinctively know that trust is a good thing, but there are more concrete reasons why trust matters at work:
Trust flows through power. Trust is the foundation of great leadership. Referent power, which is based on the perception that a person displays behaviors and characteristics that earn the respect and trust of others, is one of the most important bases of power when managing employees, according to a 2016 study from The Center for Leadership Studies and Training Industry, Inc. Simply put, developing trust gives you the power to get things done. When your employees trust you, they are more willing to follow your leadership, especially when it comes to navigating uncertain situations or uncharted territory.
Trust is the opposite of fear. Mistrust breeds fear, disengagement, lack of loyalty, diminished returns on investment and reduced productivity. Without trust, team performance will suffer because you just can’t operate efficiently without it. Employees will have trouble making decisions or admitting mistakes, fearing negative repercussions if they do. On the other hand, when you’ve developed trust, staff can seek guidance and support without fear.
Trust leads to breakthroughs. If you are a trusted leader, your employees will feel empowered to share their ideas and opinions even when they differ from yours. Because employees aren’t afraid to speak up, you’ll become privy to different perspectives, perhaps discovering new ideas or solutions. Plus, individuals are more likely to change their behaviors when their manager has built trust. Therefore, trust plays an important role when trying to implement changes and improve staff performance.
Trust helps with damage control. In a fearful environment, employees will wait to admit mistakes, often causing more problems than if they’d spoken up sooner. In a trusting environment, employees aren’t afraid to own up to mistakes and bring solutions to the table. This not only limits the fallout of an error, but better allows the employee to view the error as a learning opportunity.
Trust creates future leaders. When you trust your employees, you empower them to own their success. When they own their success, they can better push through adversity, take responsibility for their performance and results and enhance their own leadership skills. Infectious leadership has a ripple effect; capable leaders develop additional leaders.
“Trust is an investment that you make every day.”
– Dr. Sam Shriver, Executive Vice President, The Center for Leadership Studies
- Identify an individual, leader or not, who has established trust among your staff members. What actions have they taken or what characteristics have they displayed to build that trust?
- Transparency breeds trust. Are there any areas where you can increase transparency within your business?