A strong business leader inspires trust in the workplace.

Building Trust in the Workplace: What Business Leaders Can Do

Leadership Communication

The business leader’s top priority is building trust in the workplace. Here’s how.

How important is trust in the workplace? When employees trust their leaders, they are much more engaged and motivated to achieve their individual and organizational objectives. So what types of behavior are essential to adopt and maintain in order to have a positive standing in the eyes of your employees? Here are seven tips to keep in mind.

Remember You’re Being Watched

Whether you realize it or not, employees notice all aspects of a business leader’s behavior. Your everyday words and deeds can set an example by which they judge your leadership and the company as a whole.

Demonstrate Competence

Being good at what you do can inspire trust in others. Some leaders think they must demonstrate competence in all areas of business. However, if you come across as a know-it-all, employees may be skeptical of how much you know and how much you’re pretending to know. Effective leaders know when to ask questions and how to show their interest in learning more. They also invest in continuing education and refresher courses to keep their own skills up to date.

Show Passion

Without passion, how can you hope to inspire others? By displaying enthusiasm, you can generate similar excitement in employees. It’s a good feeling — and it’s contagious!

Be Transparent

Insincerity and evasion chip away at trust, so whenever you can, be transparent about what’s happening with the business. Of course, there will be confidential data you can’t disclose. Carolyn O’Hara of the Harvard Business Review notes, “regularly distributing other information—like financial results, performance metrics, and notes from board meetings—shows that you trust your employees, which in turns helps them have greater faith in you.”

Assume Blame and Share Credit

Nothing breaks trust like a business leader who, when something goes wrong, points the finger at others. By contrast, someone intent on building trust assumes responsibility for business-related mistakes, promising to learn from the situation and help others avoid similar blunders in the future.

When the company scores a big sale or wins a prestigious industry award, that same leader should proudly share credit with everyone in the organization who helped make the achievement possible. This behavior can encourage a positive team mentality.

Don’t Play Favorites

If you find yourself giving the best assignments to a select few individuals or you are constantly inviting these same people out to lunch, you’re showing favoritism and undermining the trust of their peers. Instead, regularly demonstrate how much you value everyone’s contribution to the business and how you believe in each employee’s ability to thrive in his or her job.

In the same respect, take every opportunity to spend a little face-time with the people you lead. Try to learn a few details about their personal lives. If they offer a suggestion on how to improve business processes, take their feedback seriously and act on it. Employees understand you’re under a great deal of pressure and responsible for the big picture, so the few minutes you take to talk with them are often appreciated.

Always Keep Your Promises

Being a trustworthy leader in business isn’t the same as those aspiring for elected office. Politicians make promises left and right, but voters know that addressing each one would be impossible. Business leaders, on the other hand, should never commit to a pledge they can’t keep. A broken promise can lead to a break in trust that’s extremely difficult to repair.

A leader who dedicates his or her efforts to building trust in the workplace will see how this translates into a competitive edge for the business. Employees who trust and support their leader can achieve remarkable levels of productivity and creativity other companies can’t match.

Lee Polevoi
Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer who specializes in the challenges and opportunities facing small businesses in the U.S.A former senior writer at Vistage International (a global membership organization of CEOs), Lee regularly contributes articles, white papers and blog posts to a variety of small business websites, including Paychex, Intuit Small Business, ADP, Hewlett Packard's™ The Pulse of IT, Catapult Groups, Avalara TrustFile and many others.