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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Six Ways To Build Trust In Your Company

Last week, I read an article from Forbes called “Can You Trust Your Employees” – and it occurs to me I know several business owners that don’t. In fact, they have huge amounts of rules and controls in place to deal with aberrant staff behaviour.

There is a huge effect on company morale and culture when people aren’t open with each other, and can’t speak their mind. It kills creativity, it reduces employee satisfaction, increases staff turnover, and creates a less efficient company. This is one reason start up companies are far more efficient than existing larger corporations – they aren’t burdened with as many rules, structure, and internal strife, and keep their focus on what’s important – serving their clients.

I’ve been a manager at many companies, and I’ve had the chance to work with many people – in that time, I’ve learned a lot about building engagement, and I’ve developed my own personal rules for building trust with my team.

1. Be Trustworthy – if the management of the company isn’t trustworthy, honest, and ethical, there’s no point in continuing past this point. You have to earn trust, and you have to do it through ongoing effort as a manager or employer.

You can be trustworthy by being honest when you make mistakes, by showing transparency with company decisions, and giving forewarning when there are changes coming to the company. It also doesn’t hurt to encourage yourself to be approachable and friendly to your staff whenever possible.

2. Hire The Right People – if you find you have a person on the team that abuses the company’s culture, doesn’t contribute, or harms the company, they shouldn’t be there. I have a competitor who told me about his staff who abuse their start times at work to the point he has installed security cameras to check in on them. I think the better option would be to get better staff.

If you find yourself working with a bad apple, rather than turn your company upside down and establish all sorts of punitive rules to deal with bad behaviour, it’s almost always a better idea to make a clean break with the offending staff member, for the benefit of your trustworthy employees and company culture.

3. Have Reasonable Rules – Try to avoid having a bureaucratic system. If you can have intuitive rules, even application of those rules, and reasonable consequences if something does go wrong, then your employees will feel more comfortable with what goes on in your company. This also includes explaining why you have certain rules in place. A policy without a reason is not going to help your company thrive.

If you must have rules in place, try to keep them simple, streamlined, and reward positive behaviour rather than focus on the negative. Instead of a five page absenteeism policy, try a one page policy that rewards perfect attendance. More often than not, your staff will strive to meet your positive expectations.

4. Don’t Micromanage – So you hopefully have the right people, and a reasonable set of expectations laid out for them. Now, leave them alone! Only get involved when something starts to go awry, and only to help them put it back in place. If you have to tell a staff member how to do their job over and over, why did you hire them in the first place?

Real leaders give their people room to make their own decisions, and that means allowing them to make mistakes and correct them on their own. It also means not strutting around with the “boss hat” on and working with your team as peers whenever possible.

5. Engage Your Workforce – If you can get your team involved in the higher functions of the company such as marketing, making client support decisions, and developing new products or services, they become invested in the company – it becomes their company as well. They’ll give more effort, and understand their value in the bigger picture, and that will reflect in their effort.

Some of my best managers and supervisors came from staff members who gave 110%, and when given a side-project tackled it with enthusiasm. Those employees may not have been my highest performing staff, but they were my most reliable. As they moved from project leaders to supervisors or managers, I was completely comfortable knowing they had our company’s best interests in mind when they made decisions, and were always open and honest with me when they encountered an obstacle or problem. They wouldn’t have become great managers if they hadn’t started as trustworthy employees.

6. Show Kindness – People trust the folks they like. If you yell at Sam for losing the Wilkinson client, he’s going to be resentful, and that creates a toxic work environment, either now, or down the road. And odds are, Sam will be looking for a better job elsewhere. If you are emotional, erratic, or unappreciative of your staff, they won’t trust you on an emotional level, which translates into staff turnover.

It doesn’t matter if you have an employee appreciation day, Christmas bonuses, flex time for family emergencies, or you just buy the staff donuts now and then, do something nice to show you appreciate your team. These little things are noticed and reciprocated.

Unlike some of my colleagues, I don’t need security cameras to track lateness, a punitive absenteeism policy, blocked social media websites, or a series of disciplinary letter templates. Instead, I have staff members who have worked with me in the past reaching out to now as clients, or coming to work with me at our new company – this couldn’t be done without trust.

Here’s some more interesting reading on the subject.

Do You Really Trust Your Employees?

How To Build Credibility As A Leader


There are a number of different methods to build healthy employee relationships, and I’m interested to hear what other managers and business owners are doing to build trust with the people that work with them. Please feel free to reach out to me at my office at Kingston Data and Credit, at 226-946-1730.

Thanks kindly,

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
Kingston Data and Credit

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