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Eight Ways to Develop Trust

Highly publicized examples in large organizations have emphasized the desperate need for restored employee trust. Recovering and rebuilding trust is much more difficult than preventing erosion of trust in the first place.

You don't have to be a CEO to build trust. As a team leader or the top person in your organization, there are a number of ways that you develop trust through behavior and subtle changes in your style:

1. Be trustworthy to gain trust. Be a person who demonstrates respect with employees, colleagues, vendors, and customers. Every person in your business is watching to see how you handle relationships with others. There are hundreds of opportunities in the day to show respect internally and externally with people at all levels. Trust has to start someplace. It might as well be you.

2. Communicate openly. Managers and business owners often communicate productivity goals and expectations, and also communicate on the things that will create a buzz among employees. Never underestimate the power of rumors and unconfirmed assumptions. They are time-wasters, customers pick up on them, and they often affect morale negatively. Examples:
  1. Upcoming change. Explain the rationale behind decisions, encourage employee involvement and sharing of information.
  2. Mistakes and bad news. Don't be afraid to admit mistakes or share bad news. Tell all the news you have  — even bad news. You don't want your employees jumping to conclusions.
3. Offer opportunity for dialogue. Your day (and the schedule of your employees) is busy. Yet, listening to what is important to your employees and sharing your thoughts is invaluable.

4. Seek employee input for improving the work climate and act on those suggestions. Then, tell the employees that you made the changes they suggested.

5. Let employees know how they can contribute to business goals. A disconnect between what the employee is doing and its value and importance to the goals of the business often leads to under achievement, dissatisfaction and quitting.

6. Recognize and reward. This is especially important in tight economic times. However, recognition isn't always monetary awards.^
  1. Give recognition in thought. Look for the good ideas and contributions of an employee. You'll find the power of non-verbal communication benefiting you here.
  2. Give recognition in words. Verbalize your thoughts. Give notice to the good idea or contribution. Hearing compliments can spur an employee or a team on to show more initiative, be more creative, and contribute to your bottom line. Say "thank you" in as many ways as you can. Use employees' first names when delivering your compliment and let them know why the result is important to you.
  3. Recognize in actions. Write a note of thanks for a job well done (even a small one). Establish a low-cost recognition program. Openly praise using staff meetings and larger sessions to publicly recognize employees. Designate a bulletin board for successes and contributions and use it. Celebrate successes. Repeat positive remarks you hear.
7. Establish a system to handle conflict within your workplace:
  1. Communicate verbally and in writing that you expect differences in opinion and problems will occur and employees will take responsibility for the situations they can handle themselves and seek help on those they cannot handle alone.
  2. Give employees the skills to do their jobs and skills to handle problems.
  3. Put procedures in place for evaluating performance, rewarding employees, and handling problems when they arise.
8. Hold employees accountable. Recognize and reward high performers and also hold poor performers accountable through discipline and termination.

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