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  • The Chief

Trust is Essential in the Workforce!

Here are 4 ways to get started on building employee trust:

1. Share your Story Have you heard the saying "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care". Well, I absolutely believe that it is true...and if you are a leader then you should too! your employees want to know you are genuine and in today's workforce people need that which is why I share personal stories. I had a supervisor who began every meeting with a story, sometimes a work anecdote, other times about growing up in Alaska, or Saturday Shabbat with his kids, relating the story to a key message he wanted to convey. He became a much beloved leader, and upon departing, his tech employees shared with him that what they always looked forward to about his meetings were the stories he shared.

2. Have the Hard Conversations

Scott Kriens recounts one of the first tough conversations he initiated a few years in as CEO of Juniper Networks. Up to that point, they’d been riding a wave of success and there had always been good news about company performance. Now, they’d hit their first real crisis and would need to let people go. Scott was dreading the conversation. It would have been easier to communicate via memo or have the CFO explain the rationale with numbers. Instead, he decided to show up fully for that conversation. He shared how painful the decisions were for him personally, and he made the space for people to respond and ask honest questions. Afterwards, one employee reflected back to him that “that was one of the best meetings we’ve ever had,” and others sent emails saying they were willing to take a pay cut to help. That’s when he learned how hungry people are to have an authentic conversation, even if — especially if — it’s a tough topic. Scott’s takeaways? Don’t avoid it. Don’t sugar coat things. Go all in.

3. Wear Your Values on Your Sleeve

While doing consulting work at Pacific Gas & Electric, I asked, “Who is an inspiring leader around here?” Several managers mentioned the same VP. How did they describe her? “She always says, ‘Be safe.’ ‘Do the right thing.’ ‘I care.’ Those are her personal values and it’s genuine.” Why was that inspiring? Because she had the courage to share explicitly what was important to her (not the norm in many corporate environments). The greater act of courage, though, was going on record with her values publicly, which is ultimately an invitation for people to judge whether or not she was consistent with her walk and her talk. Was she? You bet. They gave examples of her taking a stand for safety even when costly, and giving her own time and energy to celebrate a team’s contribution or arrange meals for an employee with an ill spouse. When a leader shares his or her values, and then demonstrates them by their personal actions, people notice—and they are inspired.

4. Admit Your Mistakes / Be Vulnerable

Michael Knight was the head of the Central US for Charles Schwab, and his employee satisfaction scores were dipping. He decided to enlist someone from HR to facilitate. He gathered his team and said, “I want to know your honest feedback about what I can do better as a leader. I’m going to leave the room and you can say ANYTHING.” Twenty minutes later, when the HR partner emerged from the room, he exhaled and said, “Phew, it’s over.” She was actually coming to get more flip chart paper. After an hour, when he was invited back in, it was a humbling moment to see all the phrases on the walls around him: ”Michael gets defensive when …” and, “It’s only about results.” He took it all seriously. He made changes. And he saw the impact. His region’s results steadily rose to the top. The people who worked for him talked about the things he had demonstrated during that meeting – humility, commitment, and courage – for years to follow.

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