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Building Trust As A Leader

18th October 2018

Building Trust As A Leader

The news last week about the finances of Patisserie Valerie must have sent a shudder down the backs of so many managers. If they can’t rely on the data in their organisation’s financial reports, what can they rely on? Are the products and services being ordered actually being supplied? Are employees performing the roles they are employed to perform?

Of course, it is possible to mitigate some of the uncertainty. Internal audits, keyboard monitoring, CCTV cameras and a tight control of staff can all be used to reduce the risk of fraud and misbehaviour. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of evidence to show that it also reduces employee engagement and increases absenteeism, staff turnover and operating costs. Insisting staff are at their posts dead on 9.00am, and not a minute later means that they won’t get in a few minutes early to get that urgent job done. And they will leave dead on 5.00pm – whether or not it has been done.

So what’s the solution?

The answer is trust. Trust means believing that people will do their best, be honest and work to achieve the organisation’s goals. Trust doesn’t ask for evidence but accepts what people say and do, unless there’s good reason not to. Of course, trust had to be earned and can be misplaced. That seems to have been the case at Patisserie Valerie, but that shouldn’t put managers off. The reality is that trust is rewarded. In the vast majority of cases, it’s rewarded by the very behaviour that the trust expected. This isn’t just wishful thinking. Trust is one area of organisational performance where the volume of research and the consistency of the findings is pretty incontrovertible.

But it’s a two-way street.

Leaders and managers need to earn the trust of those same employees, so that they can ask for that commitment and discretionary effort that gives organisation’s the vital edge in delivering the goods and services that their customers are looking for. To generate trust, and become effective leaders, managers need to be good at their own jobs, behave with integrity and show benevolence to their people. Benevolence means being fair and showing concern for people’s welfare; showing integrity means being honest and living up to the ethical standards that are expected in any organisation today.

Which brings us back to Patisserie Valerie! Whatever went wrong, there does appear to have been a real breakdown in trust. But that shouldn’t be allowed destroy it, either there or in other organisations taking fright at what happened. Building trust takes time but it’s easy to lose. Leaders and managers in organisations of all sizes and types should look at it as a valuable asset, worth the investment of time and energy needed to create and nurture it.

David Pardey is a leadership and management writer, researcher and training consultant. 





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