Build the trust first

A medium-sized company with decreasing sales and high staff turnover was looking for a quick fix. After assessing their predicament, I realized that as a result of a changed corporate strategy, the staff had completely distanced themselves from the management, and neither side trusted the other.

My suggestion was to pick one strategy, and stick with it – focus on wooing back the team to a position of trust. They needed each other to implement a workable strategy, because staff had pertinent information about their clients’ needs, and management had the experience to make the offers.
Part of a leader’s task is to work with the team to find and solve problems. A leader’s ability to “gain access to the knowledge and creative thinking for solving problems depends on how much they are trusted. Trust and trust-worthiness modulate the leader’s access to knowledge and cooperation.” Reversing distrust isn’t easy, but it is possible. It starts with consistent, sincere, and clearly executed actions.
– Fairness and openness is essential. Leaders have to keep people informed, explain the rationale for their decisions, be frank about problems, and give credit when it’s due.
– Consistency is requisite. The staff will mistrust you if they don’t know what you expect from them, understand how to proceed, or fear retribution for actions they performed without direction. If you tell them, “just do a good job,” without defining what that means and how to achieve it, you can’t be disappointed when they come back with different results than you expected.
– Truth and integrity is compulsory. It is impossible to expect staff to be open and honest with you and your customers, if they understand that you have been keeping pertinent information from them, or see you take credit for work that was done by others.
– Confidence is vital. The staff will respect you for being discreet and not discussing their private issues with others.

Article prepared by Renée LeMoine, Executive Director, LeMoine & Associates
This is one of a four-part leadership series; the first based upon F. Bartolomé’s, “Nobody Trusts the Boss Completely – Now What?” Harvard Business Review, March-April 1989, pp. 135-142.






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