Trust, how do you build it in the workplace?

To build trust in the workplace is critical to keep your promises.
Gaining someone’s trust is not easy, do not do anything that risks losing it.

In my last post, I was talking about empowerment.  I indicated that if you empower your employees, you need to trust them. But trust is a two-way street, you trust your employees, and they must trust you back.  How do you build that trust?

5 ways to build trust in the workplace

1.  Be honest and with integrity no matter the circumstances

There is no doubt that it is hard, to be honest, and act with integrity all the time.  Regardless of how hard or inconvenient it might be, it is critical for being a trustworthy person.  Consequently, admit when you don’t know and take responsibility for your failures.  

Be transparent, accept if you are wrong, and be open about your emotions.  For example, concede that you are angry about the outcome and ask for time for reflection before talking about the matter.  Showing vulnerability is not showing weakness but rather that you are human too.  

Also, always communicate your reasons to do something and list your expectations.  Do not hide information, be transparent instead.  

2.  Show respect and listen to what others have to say

The most basic form of respect is to listen.  Let people talk, focus on the person, and listen with the intention of understanding.  Ask for clarification to fully understand ideas, concerns, or feelings.  Then, respond with empathy and give feedback respectfully.  Show your team that you genuinely care about them. 

Another way to show respect is to be mindful of your demeanor.  Be aware of your reactions.  For example, don’t laugh or make fun of peoples’ comments.  Likewise, do not dismiss their ideas.  Your job is to coach and teach them.  Remember that not everybody learns or analyze things at the same pace or the same way.  Getting to know the person behind each employee, that is the best way to be able to help them.

3.  Think before you act

It takes time to build trust.  Therefore, the last thing you want to happen is to do something that breaks that trust.  Take time to think about how you are going to answer, make decisions carefully.  However, do not take too much time.  

Be consistent with your actions, treat everybody the same way, and act with integrity at all times. While making decisions, think about your values.  How do they align with your values?  Always, especially during hard times, respond as per your values.  

4.  Keep your promises

Once you tell someone that you will do something for them, do what you say you would.  Honor your commitments and don’t make promises you can’t keep.  If you meant to do something, do it.  If the outcome of your actions is not what the person is expecting to hear, say it anyway.  Be honest about the reasons and offer an alternative solution.

5.  Support your employees

Have their back at all times, never let anybody to bully or disrespect any person.  Your team needs to know that you are there for them always.  Create a trusted environment where they feel good about sharing their ideas and concerns.  As indicated before, a safe setting where they learn and test their opinion without fear of losing their jobs.  Provide feedback and guidance without judging but showing compassion and empathy.

Key Points to build confidence

Give trust to get trust, be the adult in the room, and extent the olive branch first.  Gaining the confidence of someone is not an easy task.  Therefore, take small steps by inviting the person to participate in a continuous improvement event, brainstorming session, or project with you.   

Model those behaviors that you want to promote by respecting everybody, keeping your word, and being transparent.  Participate with your team in the continuous improvement and problem-solving processes without trying to micro-manage.  Instead of controlling the situation, coach, and give constructive feedback.

Empowerment, what it is and how you do it?

Empower your employees to take over the improvement of their work.
Empowered employees take over problem-solving and process improvement of their workplace.

Empowerment through coaching and skills development is a powerful way to show respect to your team.  When leadership walks away from command-and-control management, they start to empower their team to take control of their work.  As servant leaders, supervisors and managers listen more, ask questions to understand, and take away barriers.  

What is empowerment?

Merriam-Webster defined empowerment as the act or action of empowering someone or something, the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties.  In business, it means to share information and some level of power with the employees to make decisions.  Likewise, it delegates some tasks like problem-solving and improvements at the workspace level.  As a result, it also comes with more responsibility and accountability.

At Barry-Wehmiller, they refer to empowerment as responsible freedom.  Bob Chapman talked about it in his post, “Trust: Better to give than receive“.  He indicated that responsible freedom summarizes two ideas, freedom and responsibility.  Freedom is the opportunity to exercise personal choice, to have ownership of the work that you do and the decisions you make.  Responsibility is to ensure to be careful and exercise concern for other people and the requirements of the organization while making decisions.

Empowerment Requirements

But give power or authorization does no good if leadership doesn’t fulfill some requirements first. Employee empowerment requires the following.

  • Trust they will do their best
  • Training in the skills necessary to carry out the new tasks
  • Coach them how to use the new skills and model the behaviors associated with them
  • Provide all required information or grant access to it
  • Encourage testing new ideas and assist with guidance and resources

How do you entitle your team with more power and control?

Empowerment means people have power and control over their daily work.  With this new power and control, they gain knowledge and trust in their capabilities.  Similarly, they feel more engaged with their work and happier when they come back home. 

As leaders, we need to watch out for our team’s needs.  Not everybody learns at the same pace or the same way.  The support they need on this new endeavor is not the same either.  Some people need more help than others. 

If you empower them, you need to trust and support them.  Respect your team by providing adequate support.  Visit the workplace often, talk with your employees and listen to their concerns.  Ask how you can help and do what you said you would do.  Equally important is to provide support.  No idea is a bad idea.  Respectfully ask questions to guide them.  Challenge the situation or the method, never the person.  Create a safe environment where the team is not afraid of sharing their ideas, try them, or fail.  After all, in continuous improvement, you win, or you learn!

Is it true that as leaders you trust, but verify?

Trust is such a contradictory feeling. We like to be trustworthy, but we are not trusting.  It happens everywhere, with all kinds of relationships.   For example, it happens with family, friendship, couples, acquaintances, and work peers. Almost every time human beings interact, there is this trust-not trust exchange in their minds.  Like any other habit, this is a hard one to break.  It has been developed upon years of lies, disappointments, and others.

To get trust, you have to freely give it.”  Bob Chapman

Learning to trust

As a long time manager in manufacturing, I learned early to trust but verify. I will trust people in their job, but I will go and check on them. The purpose was to find if they were doing what I ask. Was I trusting my people? Or was I giving instructions thinking that they will do something else? Or worse, that they don’t have the skills to figure it out on their own? Either way, I was not trusting my team. I learn that after years of learning continuous improvement.

During my childhood, I spend a lot of time with my grandfather.  We had many conversations over the years. He was trying to transfer his wisdom to me.  I did not know it back then, but he was setting the foundation for the future me.  He was trying to build a leader out of a shy and soft-spoken girl.  

Feeling trusted is a wonderful thing

There is one incident that I always remember as the day on which I learned how wonderful it feels to be trusted. Every Saturday, my grandma will take me to Bible School. While I was in class, she would visit her clients (she was a beauty products seller). But by the time school finished, she was always there waiting for me.

One day, she wasn’t. I wait for a while. But by the time the church patio was empty, I was debating with myself if I should stay there or walk myself home. I saw a car driving through a couple of times. Then, the driver asks me if he could drive me home. At that time, I decided it was time to take a risk and go home.

When my grandmother arrived and did not see me, her nerves took over. She walked the mile and a half between the church and our house in record time. I was there, still explaining to my grandpa why I did not wait. My grandma hugs and kisses me. Then she yells at me, asking what I was thinking.

My grandpa asks her to liste and understand my point of view. Later, I explained what happened. After that, he said to granma the following. “We educate her well. We teach her to trust her instincts. To observe around and use what she sees to adapt to each situation and learn. You have been walking her all these years. It was about time to let her do it on her own. We have to trust that she learned.

If you only trust your people with a competency you think they have, you’ll never give them the opportunity to show you something extraordinary.” Bob Chapman

More learnings

Fast forward many years, and now I am in my first full-time job. I was the team leader of a six people group with no idea of what to do. My father had more than twenty years of experience at the time. He told me the following. “This is not easy, but always remember to treat people the same way you like to be treated. Never ask your team to do something you are not willing to do yourself.”.

Treat people the same way you like to be treated, always has been my creed as a supervisor. But, the bosses I had during the first few years teach me to trust but verify. So that was what I did for many years. I was not respecting my creed. I was troubled with doubts about how to deal with trust issues in the workplace. I asked my lean coach how do I build trust?

He made me remember that the most important thing on our journey was the people, not the tools.  Talking with him, I recalled the faces of all the people we help to learn new skills and do new jobs they never thought they could. I easily remember their happy faces for accomplishing something new and feeling trusted. On the other hand, I have to think long and hard to remember the success we had with process improvements and costs reduction.   

That day, after the conversation with my coach, I remembered the words of my grandpa and my father. I realized that I have to trust my people in the same way my grandpa trusted me.  That was part of treating my team the same way I like to be treated.

Trust and relationships

The need for being trusting and trustworthy is a critical concept for healthy relationships.  Values like respect, integrity, and kindness only have meaning if you show them regardless of who has not shown them to you yet.  I think it is like a smile.  When you smile first, chances are the other person will smile too.  Even if he or she doesn’t smile the first few times, eventually they will.  As leaders, we need to trust our ability to explore new solutions, learn new tools, build self-discipline, and teach our team.  We also need to learn how to trust that they will do the right thing and that if they need help, they will ask for it.   After all, it feels so great to feel trusted!