Dan Riordan, ThinkHR COO, explains why trust is one of the most important qualities of workplace culture and how employers can nurture it.
We are currently living in a low-trust society as a whole — we keep hearing that news is fake, science is fake, and so on. That makes it hard for us to trust anyone and is why we need to work on building trust in the workplace more than ever. Human resources professionals and business leaders have an imperative to instill a culture of trust — not just because it is key to employee engagement, satisfaction, and performance, but also because it’s just the most human thing to do.
When you look at the foundations of trust, they are simple: People want to trust that they are going to be treated with respect, that their leaders are credible, and what they do matters. They want to know that they are secure.
There are three building blocks of trust: protection, presence, and progress. I call them my “Three Ps.”
Feeling protected is a foundational need. To earn the trust of someone else, you need to provide this protection. Your employees want to feel that the organization and their bosses are looking out for them, and that they genuinely care. Underlying the protection we all need and desire are “BLT” (just like the comforting feeling of the classic BLT sandwich): balance, love, and truth. When people feel protected, they are going to demonstrate kindness, loyalty, courage, and generosity.
When you don’t instill a sense of protection, it will stifle innovation and slow down the organization.
Presence is simple. It’s literally being present in all your interactions — meetings, one-on-one discussions, and interviews. We talk a lot about mindfulness these days, but it extends beyond the personal to the relational. Today, it feels like no one is ever present — we are all tuned in to our devices all the time. So turn off your computer, phone, tablet, watch, etc. when someone comes into your office, stay focused in conversations, and don’t bring your devices to meetings. Put your attention into what you value. Enjoy the present moment and truly experience it.
Lack of presence sends a message of lack of trust.
As humans, we constantly make progress, minute by minute. We want to know that we are moving in the right direction. How are we helping our employees make progress? Are we focused on helping them move ahead? Supporting your employees’ efforts and making progress is vital to helping them feel that you care about them fundamentally.
I have a personal philosophy of growth and recommend setting weekly growth plans. I pick one personal topic, like last week was protein, and I investigate to understand it. I also pick one work topic, like running better meetings and investigate that for the week. It’s not complicated — just pick a topic and spend the week growing at it.
Ask the Right Questions
Communicating needs is important, but it takes trust to do that. One way to develop the three Ps of trust is by asking the right questions, then really listening to the answers and acting on them. It shows you care and that you want to help people not feel like they are stranded or drowning. It tells your staff it’s safe to say that they are overwhelmed or hung up somewhere, or they don’t have the answers.
Questions for one-on-ones can include:
- How is life?
- Do you have any decisions you are hung up on?
- Am I giving you the resources or information you need to do your job?
- Do you have too much on your plate?
- What are you worried about right now?
- What rumors are you hearing?
- Would you like more or less direction from me?
- If you could pick one accomplishment to be proud of between right now and next year, what would it be?
- What are the biggest time-wasters you encounter?
- What type and amount of feedback works best for you?
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