Higher levels of trust lead to higher individual, business unit and company performance. It means more people working together, better problem solving, a more positive work climate and higher employee engagement.
Whether you are a business leader or internal communications practitioner, there are things that you can do to help ensure a culture of leadership trust…
- Build the right team
Leaders should lead by example, they should be accessible, and they should display the skills, knowledge and professionalism required of a good leader. But more importantly, they should be the “right” leader. Someone might be brilliant in theory but may not be the right fit for the history, vision, and culture of your organisation. Crucially, building the right team is more than just appointing the right leaders – all the cogs in the wheel make it turn and there can be a real art to creating a team that gets the best from one another.
- Benchmark trust and measure progress
How can you improve trust if you do not understand the level of trust that exists? It is important for internal communications practitioners to become a champion for establishing a formal system of trust measurement.
Though it seems old school, an annual survey that measures trust and the progress towards it is essential for any organisation, whilst other benchmarking tools include leadership events that can combine insight gathering with message delivery. The important thing is to make trust a corporate governance issue – dedicating the time to understand and measure trust in the organisation by establishing a system of measurement. There’s no universal way to do this but you can allocate resource, either internally or externally, to get it right!
- Be consistent.
Leadership trust will break down unless leaders are consistent. Without it the other pillars of trust fail. How can a leader be honest only some of the time and be trusted? How can a leader be transparent only some of the time and people not think they have something to hide?
Consistency must be built and the most important thing i) for trust to be part of the leadership DNA in a business and embedded in the culture – rather than be regarded as an initiative that is the latest ‘fad’. There is no longer a line between internal and external, everything is capable of being in the public eye and you need to behave in a way that is consistent with how you want to be perceived.
- Encourage feedback and listen to it
Leaders grow organically through interaction and communication and need a feedback loop so they
know if there is a real or perceived issue. Organisations should be promoting and supporting feedback, straight talk, and straight listening – with senior leaders leading by example!
Creating open dialogue with employees ensures that there is effective two-way communication between the leaders and all other employees. In effect, this ensures that all employees understand and can buy into the company vision and the direction the company is taking, whilst providing employees with an opportunity for their views, concerns, or opinions to be heard and, where relevant, actioned.
This continuous loop is key to creating engaged employees. If they see that their opinions are being listed to and, ultimately, actioned, then they are more likely to accept the direction in which the company is travelling. And that is a win-win in any company.
- Keep colleagues informed
Without regular and consistent information, employees will lose focus – and trust. Whether you are communicating a strategy, launching a new product internally or driving behavioural change, leaders need to communicate their intentions and capabilities clearly and consistently.
There is no magic formula and no single textbook to follow – which is why so many organisations still struggle in search of trust. But, there are foundations you can lay now that will start the journey to building a culture that centres on trust and leadership transparency.
The most important part – and for many organisations the hardest bit of all – is to keep those walls standing firm by maintaining the same level of trust over a sustained period of time, particularly through organisational or leadership change.
Our credentials on our Campaign and Strategy work can be found on our service pages if you want to your homework first, but if you’re going through a transitional period and need some support with a communications plan that helps re-engage your employees – get in touch!