Trust in the workplace, like respect, is earned not merely given. It is also the basis of any good office culture – just ask Patrick Lencioni, author of “5 Dysfunctions of a Team,” who places trust as the 1st and most important step in building a healthy team culture. Compromise and honest conversation become nearly impossible without it, and trust as the foundation of your culture will help with difficult decisions and buy-in from the team. But how do you build trust with employees, especially new hires and remote workers? Read on for more from YellowTelescope’s Vice President of Operations, Jill Peeling.
Create A Safe Place to Foster Trust in the Workplace
We believe culture starts with owners and management, in part through establishing a small set of Core Values (see our newsletter on Core Values). As individual business leaders, if you can personally commit to being “honest and accountable,” you can establish and define this as a non-negotiable necessity to be a part of your team. Importantly, it is your responsibility to model honesty and accountability first, as trust is built through leadership. Specifically, openness to self-evaluation, asking for and positively receiving feedback that doesn’t always feel great, and reacting positively to that feedback is paramount.
Second, if you can achieve the personal growth outlined above, you must then be willing to act swiftly against any team member who does not model this core value in their behavior, but again, it only works if you are personally beyond reproach in your behavior. While turnover or punishment is not the goal of any business owner, unless core values carry benefits for adherence and real consequences when ignored, culture change will stagnate. As time passes, the team will see you live your core values, develop personal habits that model them, and form habits, we build a culture that permeates the organization. Our YT team knows that you must be “honest and on it” and our ownership lives that Core Value daily, replying to email at lightning speed and being honest with staff and clients, regardless of the outcome.
At YellowTelescope, we talk about a Personal Integrity Bank (PIB). Each person has one PIB with each person they interact with. Over time your interactions and behaviors add or deduct from your PIB with others. Little white lies and convenient exclusions erode trust over time, as do missed deadlines, minor promises that go unfulfilled, late paychecks or missing bonuses, and so forth. For example, if your nurse calls in sick and then you run into her that night having dinner out with her family, it may not mean she loses all of your trust, but it serves as a big deduction from her PIB with you. Similarly, when you anticipate the needs of an employee going through a truly difficult illness, drive to her house, and drop off chicken soup and a “just because” bonus check as a thank you for her ten years of loyalty, you add to her PIB with you. Similarly, if you are the sort of business owner or manager who believes in the correct approach of asking your team members “to complain up to management and never down to peers or direct reports,” but like so many in the role, in reality, largely just want to never be told you are wrong and be followed blindly, your team knows it and deducts huge amounts from your PIB. Recognizing your power is already more than you need is key to realizing humble leadership will benefit you more.
While these are starkly contrasting situations to illustrate a point, most credits and debits from your various PIB accounts with employees, family and friends, are much smaller. A simple thank you adds, while snapping quickly at an employee subtracts from your PIB. An employee showing up 2 minutes late subtracts from her PIB with you, just as arriving 10 minutes early to tidy her area and get organized for the day adds a few proverbial cents. Ultimately, when a business owner or employee is honest – even to a fault being perhaps a bit too forward as our consulting team is famous or perhaps infamous for – plus does what he or she promises to do, the practices builds culture from the top down, ultimately leading to employees who get joy out of also getting things done, always telling the truth, and meeting deadlines with quality work.
Hire Good People and Allow Them to Build Your Trust
We believe it is important to hire good people you like and want to trust, provide them with tools and resources to grow when they have needs, and then leave them alone to do their jobs. Micromanaging and creating picky rules in the office signals to your employees you do not trust them. Hold them accountable if they make mistakes, as it will help reinforce the trust and your inability to accept anything that is not “honest and accountable.” And, if you have done a good job establishing the non-negotiables and core values, your staff will expect everyone to be held accountable, including leadership. By trusting employees to do their jobs and allowing them to shine, you are making a deposit in everyone’s PIB. Too often we see human error and in response, leadership adds layer upon layer of checks and balances until they get what they ask for (nobody ever makes a mistake) but not the outcome they want as sales slip and people quit due to disliking their job and managers.
Loyalty goes a long way in building trust. When an unhappy patient starts complaining that your receptionist, who is known to be kind and positive, was screaming and rude, do you immediately chastise the receptionist or tell the patient they are right? We recommend not doing so if you want to maintain trust with your team. Instead, tell the patient that you are quite surprised because you have never experienced her treat anyone that way, but of course you will look into it and ensure it does not occur again. After the patient has left, provide an opportunity for your receptionist to explain their side of what occurred and find out if there is an issue you need to address. Having your employee’s back, and at least hearing them out, shows you trust them, which builds loyalty without losing accountability.
Building Trust in the Workplace Through Regular Check-Ins
If the team has worked together for years, their PIB’s are likely fairly full and trust is much more prevalent. And if not, that tenure depletes your reserves and you may be close to a mass exodus. But how do you build trust with a new hire or a remote employee you don’t see on a daily basis? The answer is the same as with everyone who works for you, but a more concerted effort may be needed.
Just like diet and exercise are the only tried and true way to stay in shape, spending time with your employees consistently is the only way to get to know your staff as humans outside of their roles in the business. Without in-office time it may take more effort to build a relationship and regular one-on-one meetings are imperative. To make the most of your meetings, plan a time in advance so you can both be prepared. Spend part of every meeting building rapport and learning about their personal lives. Don’t assume “no news is good news.” Dive in deeper to find out what they love about work, what is frustrating, is their workload manageable, and ask if they need support from leadership. Being proactive gives you the opportunity to squash any issues before they fester. Regular 1-on-1 meetings, even if over Zoom or by phone, shows leadership sees and cares about everyone on the team, helping to build a culture where people feel free to speak their minds.
The best way to start building trust in the workplace and within your team is to create a culture where honesty and accountability are non-negotiable. That starts with you and the truth is most folks reading this have significant opportunity. Understand everyone has a PIB and work to grow your own balance sheet by trusting, supporting, and learning about your team, while delivering on everything you promised, when you promised. For a conversation about your team, leadership, and how YellowTelescope helps motivated people reach their capacity, reach out here or call 305-455-0720.