The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, once said: “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” Sadly, such is the plight of many employees across the country.
Indeed, the time and energy spent looking over your shoulder diverts attention and effort away from the work at hand. For this reason, we, as executives must fashion trust into the organizations that we lead – making it safe for our staffs to do their best. Here is a checklist from my latest book, The Executive Checklist (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) that, if followed, can help reinstate trust within the workforce:
Trust Building Checklist
- Model the Behavior – Trust starts at the top. People within an organization adopt the behaviors and attitudes of their leaders. If they see that their leadership team dodges conflict, makes excuses and maneuvers around important issues then they will think it’s acceptable to be misleading and deceptive, too. Become a leader that people can trust!
Think of the “Trust Dividend” that John Mackey, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Whole Foods Market, earns from his employees when he only draws $1 per year in salary. He’s walking the talk. Certainly, his staff trusts him when he says employees are his most important asset. After all, he has even put caps on executive pay to ensure parity with the company’s average hourly earner. Mackey earns trust through action.
- Focus on the Outside – An organization should always be focusing its energy on the outside – wowing prospects, servicing customers and defeating the competition. Trust issues can arise when the people of an organization lose that external focus.
- Make It a “No Spin” Zone – There is something for us, as executives, to gain from the concept of establishing an environment where only facts are discussed and the truth is told. So, regardless of one’s political leanings, we must create a “No Spin Zone” within the workplaces that we are charged with leading – one where we tell the truth and nothing but the truth.
- Don’t Play Games – It is important that we don’t play games with our people and, as importantly, do not allow games to be played by others on your watch. Instead, work to “keep it real” within the workplace by setting clear direction, providing honest feedback, recognizing contribution and celebrating completion.
- Do Your Job – We must be clear about what is to be done and what is to be delivered. Once that understanding is established across the concern, we can remind our staff members to “do your job,” which means working hard, being prepared, paying attention to details and putting the organization’s goals ahead of personal ones.
Don’t think that a commitment to this point has an impact on a team’s performance? Consider the success enjoyed by the NFL’s New England Patriots. There is a sign that is posted above the door as you enter the New England Patriots locker room that reads “Do Your Job.” It was put there at the direction of head coach Bill Belichick. It serves as a reminder to his players to come to work each day ready to work and focus on doing their jobs.
It must have an effect. Since Belichick’s arrival in New England in 2000, the Patriots have become one of the most successful squads in NFL history – earning their way into the Super Bowl seven times (the most by any team in the last 25 years).
- Do Your Best – Doing one’s best does not mean having to be perfect. Rather, it is better to establish a work setting where personnel strive to learn from mistakes and grow organizational knowledge through experience, than to create an environment that is so concerned with perfection that it stunts execution and stifles performance.
- Share The Wealth – It builds trust and motivates staff when staff members recognize that their management team gives them credit when credit is due and takes responsibility when things don’t work out the way that were originally intended.
- Keep It Light – It is important to establish a work setting that is comfortable for employees and conducive to getting things accomplished. Executives can promote more trust among contemporaries and co-workers when we keep it light and establish a positive atmosphere. People will work longer and harder when they like each other and feel a sense of togetherness.
Some firms like, DreamWorks Animation have weaved this thought right into its culture statement:
“At the heart of DreamWorks Animation is the desire to tell great stories and inspire audiences. The company’s culture not only encourages employees to create but also to innovate and, ultimately, to have fun!”
The “have fun” philosophy must be working. Just consider the success of its franchises including “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda” for confirmation that “keeping it light” delivers results.
It is up to us, as executives and leaders, to forge organizations that are steeped in trust and fortified by our commitment to create a work setting that enables people to get along and prosper. After all, no one wants to work with, or for, someone that cannot be trusted. To be sure, great things happen when people who work together trust each other.