According to Ben Page, CEO of the UK’s leading market research company, IPSOS Mori, only 29% of the population believes that those in charge know best (1). In the US, that number hovers around 19% (2). This means that 71% of Brits and 81% of Americans distrust their leaders.
Unfortunately, distrust in the political realm filters down to distrust within the workplace—especially with the global economic downturn. As a result, a majority of employees are hesitant to completely trust anyone in power—and that includes their supervisors, managers, department heads, and guess who? (you, too.) Given this widespread negativity, CEOs and other business leaders like yourself definitely face a monumental task if you want to establish trust relationships with your employees.
Trust cannot be confused with authority. As CEO or top executive of your company, you automatically have authority. What you say goes, and if someone chooses not to do what you say, they have to answer to you. That is the nature of authority, and it has a rightful place in every business.
Trust, on the other hand, does not come with the territory. Just because you have a certain position in your company, your employees do not have to trust you. They may have to obey you. They may have to display respect to you, but they are not required by job description to trust you. Lack of trust can throw a cog in the wheels of any business.
Trust has to be earned. The reason that government leaders have such a low trust score is because they have betrayed the people’s trust for decades and continue to do so, giving the populace little reason to believe their next promise. As head of your company, your every decision should give your people another reason to trust you more. At some point, their trust will become as natural as breathing and as unshakeable as faith.
Trust stems from honesty. When someone has integrity and is honest in the way he or she does business, the natural response of those around him is to trust what he says and trust in what he does. Honesty surrounded by trust creates a stable work environment in which no one on the team would ever dream of ruining it by doing something shady.
Trust needs to be reinforced daily. Earning your employees’ trust by doing one trust-producing act will not create an atmosphere of trust. Trust builds as your team experiences a consistent pattern of honest, dependable behavior from you and your top execs. At some point, that trust will become part of your company’s brand. It will not only be lived and felt by your people but also by your customers and the community.
Have you noticed any trust issues within your teams? What is going on in your company that may have triggered them? Is there infighting or jockeying for position? Are there less-than-honorable dealings being condoned that are upsetting some of your people? Are there unethical decisions being made behind closed doors that require you to be less than truthful with your people? Do you feel that your employees trust you as a person, as their leader?
For Part 2 of “Do your People Trust You?” read Boardroom Power Tip #37. Discover practical ideas for pinpointing trust issues and for restoring trust in your company.