Staffing Management

Dear Workforce How Do We Rebuild Trust in Our Leadership

By Staff Report

Oct. 5, 2010

Dear Trust Deficit:

In this time of organizational restructuring, rapid operational/technological changes and uncertainty, rebuilding trust is definitely a challenging (and not uncommon) task. However, all levels of management can take the lead in this rebuilding process if they follow some basic principles and seven strategic steps.

1. Hold a focus group. One of the best ways to begin a healing and trust-building process is a meeting, or a series of meetings, that allows people to appropriately share their concerns or vent frustrations about people or processes that have contributed to a destabilizing or trust-eroding organizational atmosphere or culture. Of course, you need a skilled and objective facilitator. When employees see that management doesn’t get defensive during this exchange and acknowledges broad concerns and, in fact, takes meaningful problem-solving steps, trust levels begin to rise.

2. Acknowledge hidden agendas. When possible, speak the unspeakable—that is, acknowledge the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Being transparent doesn’t mean you have to put everything on the table, but certainly share appropriate information about problematic issues or about what is and is not in your immediate control, along with what information you do and don’t have. (These last two issues are particularly salient when there are rumors about a possible restructuring or downsizing.)

3. Talk straight and ask good questions. Try to get to the point without too much digression or overexplanation, as this diminishes your credibility with an audience. When possible do some preparation; precision of language commands attention. If this is an issue, what keeps you from talking straight—fear of consequences or being wrong, fear of hurting others, wanting to be liked, a duplicitous environment, etc.? Conversely, ask good questions. The essence of a good question is a) humility: “I don’t have all the answers” and b) openness: “I really would like to hear and learn from your point of view.” Remember, when a person is communicating with high emotion, he or she likely still feels misunderstood.

4. Don’t bad-mouth others behind their backs, especially folks no longer in the company. All this does is fuel employee mistrust: “What do (or will) people say about me when I’m not around (or when I retire)?” And if people are talking negatively about a current employee, encourage people to talk directly with the person; offer to mediate (or to find a mediator) when appropriate.

5. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver; keep your commitments. As I like to say, beware of being motivated by ego goals: that is, when your goals are driven less by the needs, demands, resources and challenges of a situation and more by ego and false pride. Remember the advice of Stephen M.R. Covey: When you make a commitment, you build hope; when you keep a commitment, you build trust.

6. Create a learning, trust-building culture. In addition to acknowledging a personal mistake in a timely manner, when possible view errors as less a sign of incompetence and more an indicator of inexperience or some immaturity, maybe even boldness.

7. Extend trust. Design rules and procedures for the overwhelming majority of people you can trust. Grant trust abundantly to those who’ve earned it; extend conditionally to those earning it, while examining the situation, risk potential and credibility—the competence and character—of those involved for more opportunities to extend trust.

SOURCE: Mark Gorkin, The Stress Doc, Washington, D.C., August 9, 2010

LEARN MORE: Please read “5 Questions With Dov Seidman: Inspiration as Worker Incentive” for more on how companies can reconnect with employees.

Workforce Management Online, October 2010Register Now!

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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