June 15th, 2011 | 1:00 pm

5 Essentials To Build Employee Trust: Behaviors That Are Sometimes Forgotten Along The Way

filed under Industry Leaders

StephanieLemaContributed by Stephanie Lema, Founder of Bepositivemom.com

Depending on your organizational structure, the leadership hierarchy may be very flat or may have several tiers. Either way, how managers, directors and vice presidents interact with their employees has a direct impact on morale and productivity.

Trust plays a major role in the corporate culture. It’s built over time and is very fragile in the workplace. Over the last decade, studies have shown workplace trust diminishing.

If you are standing on the corporate ladder in a management position, you can lead your team to success by building and maintaining their trust by engaging in 5 essential behaviors. Here’s how.

1) Integrity From The Top
Integrity comes from the top no matter how flat an organizational structure may be. Showing integrity includes telling the truth to employees and doing what you say you are going to do (i.e. follow through), even if it proves to be difficult.

The integrity demonstrated by leadership becomes the integrity of the company and the company culture. Simply put, do the right thing. If integrity breaks down or is never there to begin with, employee trust will not be there either.

2) The Golden Rule
Treat others as you would like others to treat you. Seems simple, doesn’t it? A manager who belittles or disrespects his or her employees not only diminishes morale with this approach, but will also break the trust. In short, treating people with the respect they deserve as people, not just employees will build trust. Ask yourself, “How would I like to be treated in this situation?”

3) Communication Goes Both Ways
An organization has many ways of communicating. First and foremost, leadership builds and maintains trust by communicating a clear company vision, mission and plan for achievement to their employees. For new employees, this is a critical step to build the trust foundation.

Beyond mission and vision, your employees are your partners. Leadership that seeks ideas, suggestions and opinions provide an opportunity for contribution from their employees. People are motivated when they feel that their voices are heard. An open door to ideas can lead too many more brainstorms in the future.

One caution is the need for flexibility when leadership requests input. Ask for ideas and suggestions only if you plan to incorporate them into your work product. It could back fire and reduce the trust between you and your team otherwise. Remember, compromises are part of a team effort as well.

4) It’s About The Team Gain, Not Yours
People have goals and the ambition to fulfill them. That’s all well and good, but the ambition for title and a rung high on the corporate ladder may prove to be detrimental to the trust within your team. Teamwork is about everyone working together to accomplish an objective.

Of course teamwork has its challenges. If the manager has a personal agenda in play, employees will often figure it out. The result is lacking trust in the manager in addition to the manager sabotaging his or her own credibility.

Patience, hard work and a plan with integrity will help an ambitious employee (i.e. aspiring leader) get that much closure to the career goal, not a personal agenda.

Not standing behind your employees will prove to be trust killers as well.

5) Leading By Example Comes In Many Forms
The old adages, “Do as I say, not as I do” or “Walk the Talk” fall into this category. When you think about your career path, do you have specific managers and experiences that stand out? Those moments taught you valuable lessons. In leadership, you teach others by how you interact with them and that can be a positive yet powerful tool. Actions do speak louder than words.

Many people, men and women, in the workforce have mastered these essentials and have loyal teams in place. These teams are accomplishing new heights each and every day.

Trust is built over time and can easily be lost as a result of poor communication, inconsistent guidance and lack of commitment to your team. It’s important to demonstrate a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get involved. Working with your employees regarding problem resolution will also help build trust with them. Losing sight of these 5 essentials may result in employee turnover and lost productivity.

Take Inventory!

Are you building a culture of trust? Answer the following questions:

Am I truly listening to my employees?
Am I setting the right expectations regarding the team and individual performance objectives?
Do I take the time to revisit the objectives to ensure the expectations and deliverables are on track?
Are my own career goals interfering with team morale?
Am I walking the talk?
Am I open to employee ideas? Do I include those ideas in the decision making process?

We spend many hours in the office and while no situation is perfect, every one of us can take steps to make our work environment more enjoyable and positive. Stay true to these 5 essentials and you will gain the trust of your employees and maintain it over the long-term.

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