Trust in senior management is declining in the UK. According to a survey, 41% place little or no trust in senior managers to look after their interests, and only 25% place a lot of trust in their managers.
The effect of a lack of trust is low loyalty, and lack of commitment to the organisation. Can you afford this as a cost in what you are trying to achieve in your organisation?
Most leaders I meet would prefer to be seen as trustworthy. What may stop them is that they don’t know how to create that perception – ‘ I am not like others’ – or don’t know how to manage the expectations of their own bosses/shareholders and be trustworthy for employers.
So how do you come across as trustworthy? Obviously, the first step is to have the integrity that leads to trustworthiness. We tend to trust people who are straight with us, tell the truth, recognise and value what we do and who we are.
So as a leader, we need to be known by our workforce, and know them. This is not hard. It requires us to set some time aside each day to wander around our workplace, talking to people, gradually getting to know their names, and noticing their reliability rather than just descending when there is a problem. It is amazing how powerful it is just to know people’s names – we all feel more recognised when someone remembers who we are!
We also need to be straight with people, and keep them informed. By the way, this includes telling them that you don’t know the answer to their concern, rather than bullshitting your way through! We were talking about this issue in a workshop the other day, and one of the leaders present said that his old boss used to have set times for appearing in different parts of the organisation, and would be there for an hour or so. People knew that they could ask him anything at that time, and did so. If he didn’t know or hadn’t got the time to talk properly with them, he would always say that he would get back to them – and he did! It made him a trusted leader.
And what if your bosses are putting pressure on you to cut staff, or cut costs in some other way? It is time we started working out the maths for the real cost of these sorts of actions as a short term solution: the cost of increased staff turnover from survivors of staff cuts – often our best workers who have lost faith in their leaders; the cost of low morale from those who are left, and the resulting lower productivity; the cost of reducing the standard of our customer service in terms of longer term customer retention and increase. We all know with our common sense that these types of cuts only pay off in the short term, and cost more in the longer term.
As a leader we have to be both courageous enough to say so, and astute enough to actually present a good business case for taking another approach.
There is a history at work of people not trusting their boss. The lack of trust is getting worse. Make sure you are in the healthy minority who have integrity and demonstrate it, and help us to create more long term sustainable organisations with a trusting and motivated workforce.