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Eight ways leaders can build greater trust

Is trust on its way to becoming an endangered species? With an ever-changing healthcare industry—and uncertainty being the name of the game—it's no wonder that less than half of employees have trust and confidence in their senior leaders, according to a Watson Wyatt survey of 12,000 workers. But while this distrust may be understandable, it can be very detrimental to success. Without trust, employees are less productive, less dedicated and less willing to take the initiative. And in an environment where efficiency is paramount, lacking trust can create a ripple effect that spreads throughout the organization.

Here are some ways to build employee confidence and greater trust internally:

1. We're in this together
Always speak in terms of "us" and "we." Talk about shared responsibility as well as shared hardships. Express belief, as long as it's sincere, in everyone's ability to pull together and meet the challenges that lie ahead. Give people permission to whine briefly about some of the struggles and the crises, but after you have communicated openly, ask them to move on so you can all focus on maximizing efficiency and upholding quality patient care. The manager/leader – employee relationship is one that matters now, more than ever.

2. Share the plan
Outline the challenges that exist and share the strategy for the how the organization will address them. Employees are looking to leadership for a plan and guidance. They want to know things have been thought through and real steps are being taken to remain competitive and move forward. Leaders must not become overly focused on what they don’t have. They should focus on their teams and what strengths their teams bring. Real leadership wisdom comes from knowing the team—and using that information to create a clear plan.

3. Tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
Communicate often. Don't withhold information or try to sugar coat the issues. Share the things you know for sure and be honest when you're uncertain. People may not like what they're hearing, but when they know they have full disclosure, they don't need to spend energy wondering where things stand, imagining worst-case scenarios or feeding the rumor mill until an "us against them" mentality evolves.

4. Balance hardware with human
Don't leave everything to email or other electronic communication. Conduct more face-to-face talks and be sure the leadership team is visible. Walk around more; get a handle on the pulse of the organization. The more aware you are of potential trust issues, the quicker you can step in and address them with candor, concern and credibility.

5. Hold employees accountable
High-trust organizations reward top performers while also holding poor performers accountable through discipline, and even termination. If stellar employees see unproductive co-workers getting away with poor performance with no real consequences, resentment and distrust in leadership can build quickly.

6. Let people talk about their concerns and ideas—and listen.
To get honest feedback, try conducting attitude surveys. These can help you determine if, and why, trust is low. Use survey results to sit down with employees and delve deeper into why trust is lacking and what could be done to improve it. Get specific employee input for improving the work climate and make constructive changes with the suggestions you receive.

7. Remind people of goals—and the part they each play in achieving them.
Companies with high levels of trust are very effective at communicating the company's business goals and the part each employee plays in achieving them. When people understand why certain decisions are made and feel that their roles are vital in helping the company achieve success, they take more ownership and pride in what they're doing.

8. Leadership needs to show they trust employees
Be sure to talk about the strengths of your organization and how it is the combined effort of the employees that have brought everyone this far. Let them know you believe in their abilities and appreciate their loyalty. And avoid creating an environment where employees feel that "big brother is watching." Nothing breeds distrust like distrust.

About Caliper - For nearly half a century, Caliper has been helping companies achieve peak performance by advising them on hiring the right people, managing individuals most effectively and developing productive teams. The accuracy, objectivity and depth of our consulting approach enable us to provide solutions that work for over 25,000 companies. To find out more about how Caliper can help you identify and develop people who can lead your organization to peak performance, please visit us at www.calipercorp.com  or call us at 609-524-1200. Email editorial@mhwmag.com to contact Patrick.

 
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