Leading to Build Trust During Economic and Social Uncertainty
“Fake it until you make it” is often used to build confidence or to change behaviors in the moment, such as “smile until you feel like smiling.” But this is poor advice for leaders who are trying to build trust with their teams.
A 2023 survey by Gallup found trust in the workplace is decreasing. This is a significant decline from 2019, when 24% of employees in America said they trusted their leadership.
Cultivating trust is a definite need in today’s workplace.
Trust is built when employees are inspired by senior leaders and see strategic actions leading to business success. Declines in employees’ confidence in their leaders and the future of their organization causes a drop in employee engagement.
Cultivating trust is a definite need in today’s workplace.
The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that even midlevel leaders don’t trust senior people. This is consistent with our findings in the book, Why Leaders Fail and the 7 Prescriptions for Success. In our study of over 100,000 employees, poor communication created more problems with trust than any other factor.
Surveys indicate that trust levels are highest with peer-to-peer interactions.
All of our research indicates that real and sincere trust is missing in many workplaces, and interestingly, trust has decreased post-pandemic.
In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, employee engagement in the U.S. reached a record high. Senior leaders became more human, more like the rest of us. We saw them at their kitchen tables in sweatshirts, with shrieking kids and barking dogs in the background.
During this time of great uncertainty, leaders were more honest about what they worried about, what they did not know, and they showed more attention to their people by listening to their ideas.
In the initial stages of the pandemic, an astonishing 55% of employees strongly agreed that their leaders communicated a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19. By the middle of 2022, only 22% strongly agreed that their leaders communicated a clear plan of action for how they would move forward in the post-pandemic. (Gallup)
Credit union leaders have always known that they need to listen to their people. But they also must provide a solid framework for moving the organization ahead with a compelling vision, understandable mission, and clear and measurable goals.
Trust is the foundation of any successful workplace. It fosters collaboration, promotes innovation, and enhances productivity. One crucial aspect of building trust is providing a solid framework that enables employees to see a clear path forward. By crafting a compelling vision, an understandable mission, and setting clear and measurable goals, leaders create a sense of direction and purpose. This article explores how a well-defined framework can increase trust in the workplace, empowering employees and propelling the organization towards success.
What should credit union leaders do?
They need to communicate an exciting vision, a clear mission, and achievable goals, and they need to reiterate their priorities.
Craft a Compelling Vision
A compelling vision serves as a guiding star, illuminating the path towards success. It paints a vivid picture of the future and inspires employees to rally behind a common goal.
When leaders articulate a vision that resonates with their teams’ values and aspirations, they create a sense of purpose and meaning in the workplace.
People need a powerful sense of purpose beyond themselves. A compelling vision fuels enthusiasm and commitment, fostering trust among employees who feel a part of something bigger than themselves. It provides a sense of direction and stability, even during times of change, encouraging collaboration and driving collective effort.
Understand and Convey the Mission
A well-defined mission bridges the gap between the vision and the day-to-day operations. It articulates the organization’s core purpose. An understandable mission statement provides clarity about the organization’s priorities and objectives.
When employees can clearly comprehend the importance of their work, they develop a stronger sense of ownership and engagement. A clear mission aligns individual efforts with broader organizational goals, fostering a sense of unity and trust among team members. It enables employees to see the significance of their contributions and understand how they fit into the larger picture.
Set Clear and Measurable Goals
Clear and measurable goals transform strategy into tangible outcomes. Leaders need to work with their teams to establish specific targets and milestones.
These goals should be communicated transparently and frequently to employees, ensuring everyone understands what is expected and how success will be measured.
No one wants to guess what they need to do to be successful at work. Clear goals create a sense of focus and direction, allowing employees to prioritize their work and align their efforts accordingly. When progress is measurable, employees and their managers track their achievements, celebrate successes, and make the necessary adjustments. Transparent goal setting fosters trust by providing a framework for accountability and recognition.
Promote Collaboration and Transparency During Change
A solid framework built on a compelling vision, understandable mission, and clear goals fosters a culture of collaboration and transparency. When employees have a shared understanding of the organization’s direction and objectives, they can work together towards common goals.
Clear communication channels, open dialogue, and regular updates ensure that everyone is aware of progress and any changes. This transparency builds trust, as employees feel valued and respected when they are kept informed. Collaboration thrives when individuals have a clear framework within which to contribute their unique skills and perspectives, resulting in enhanced trust and teamwork.
What other reminders do leaders need to increase trust in this post-pandemic world?
In our follow-on research, we found employees needed tactical interactions, in addition to strategic initiatives.
1. Be consistent. No employee wants to wonder whether the action they took on Monday is going to be wrong on Tuesday. If it was okay on Monday, it should be okay on Tuesday. Set clear standards and be consistent.
2. Provide feedback quickly and appropriately. People in any relationship, whether at work or at home, need to know when they are doing things correctly and when they are not. Providing course corrections when you are in a leadership role is not optional – it is expected. Employees should be able to trust that their managers will care enough about them to let them know both when they are being successful and when they are not.
3. Appreciate information, even if the news is bad. Many employees will not tell leadership when there is an issue because they are afraid of being labeled as complainers, or worse, treated as though they are the cause of the problem. Great leaders want to know when there are problems so they can fix them. They appreciate those people who help them identify and solve obstacles.
4. Jump in when necessary. If leaders preach the value of employees helping each other wherever they can, then managers can facilitate trust by helping out as well. That does not mean doing people’s jobs for them. It means providing advice, guidance, and direction when needed.
5. Tell the truth. Tell people the truth, especially during tough situations. Let people know what is going on quickly and completely. People would rather work for an honest, straight shooter than someone disingenuous. Bad news is better than uncertainty. Jack Nicholson was wrong in the movie, A Few Good Men – people can handle the truth.
In today’s fast-paced and complex work environments, trust is a critical component of organizational success.
Trust is often assumed until it is broken, but once broken, it is hard to regain. Great leaders need to be mindful of their actions and work continuously to build and maintain relationships at work.
Commander Mary Kelly, US Navy (ret) is the CEO of Productive Leaders, a firm dedicated to improving leadership and economic development. She can be found at Mary@ProductiveLeaders.com.
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