Trust is a word that holds great weight but often gets bantered about as if it is light and carefree as a feather blowing in the wind.
"Trust me," you say to a friend, or a colleague, when they question your insights or decision. This will all work out. But maybe there is no real substance behind the promise or no real understanding or belief that the situation will really have a positive, or right, ending.
Similarly, when a leader moves forward with an idea or a command or a project or a system that you fear will fail or that has no real foundation or which you simply don't understand, trust begins to crumble.
Reasons abound why employees lose trust in their leadership. Here are five examples of how leaders spoil the trust relationship, and ways they can either avoid doing so, or repair trust, once it's been damaged:
1. Distrusting their employees. When leadership asks an employee to take ownership of a project but then constantly questions their every move or second-guesses each decision and overall, interjects themselves into the project at every level, then trust begins to languish.
The employee no longer trusts that their boss trusts them.
Instead, it's better to find a happy medium. Leaders should create a project check-in plan that ensures at particular milestones and/or dates they and the employee will convene to communicate and evaluate project progress and next steps. This will take pressure off of the employee, and deter micromanaging, and it also will provide relief to the leader knowing there will be appropriate check-ins to ensure forward movement.
2. Sending employees on a wild goose chase. When a company owner asks an employee to invest hours researching a new idea but then abandons the idea as soon as the employee presents results, the employee feels not only annoyed, but less trusted (and less trusting in the owner).
For example, if leadership is considering investing in a new scheduling software that will not only make their life easier, but also will improve the entire department's - maybe even entire company's - efficiency and effectiveness, but really has no intention of entrusting the employee's findings, then it may be best never to delegate the research.
Not only will the employee feel they have wasted energy and time on this fruitless project, but doing so will also diminish their belief the next time they are asked to go out on a hunt for a new service or system.
3. Being secretive about sweeping changes. When leadership holds back important information from employees about a change that is coming down the pike, then trust not only cracks, but it also may be broken.
For example, if another company is on the verge of acquiring the company, and leadership holds off sharing this information with staff for fear of causing anxiety or even that key employees may begin looking for other jobs, then they are being shortsighted.
Instead, by opening up about the possible merger or acquisition, and investing the time or energy to share the vision as to the next steps and how it will affect teams, leadership can actually cement trust. While divulging such information may risk losing some people who are not keen to change, others may be more likely to stay the long haul, through the rigor of transition, based on this insider knowledge that will bolster their esteem.
Knowledge is power, and it will ultimately empower the people.
4. Pulling the rug out from under employees. When leadership has been promising an employee an opportunity for advancement and then the floor falls out from beneath them as they are overlooked for the promotion, trust wanes.
Perhaps leadership's reasoning is sound, based on deciding someone else is a better fit. However, assuming the employee did nothing wrong to result in being passed over, and that the decision was based more on someone 'better' coming along, then it is the leader's responsibility to help that same employee pave a new path to advancement, if possible.
Perhaps one solution is sending the employee to training and helping mentor them to a more senior role and ultimately, creating a new title and opportunity for growth.
5. Abandoning their team. When leadership leaves a team drifting without a captain, the team loses trust. For example, maybe the region has become the company's stepchild. Managers have been rotating in and out of this same region every year, leaving the team feeling abandoned and dispirited.
Perhaps the reasons for management defection have never been addressed, and instead leadership keeps sending new managers to see who may stick, without success.
Trust in the company's leadership quickly plummets. Perhaps it is time to take the time to really evaluate and resolve the underlying issues. This may mean hiring a consultant or recruiting a leader who is willing to dive deeply and apply the innovation to do things differently. They can then plan and execute a true turnaround that the entire region can get on board with and which will inspire both management and team members to come together, successfully, for the long haul.