On Building Trust

Trust is a topic that’s come up for me a couple times this week.

My friend Heather Coleman-Voss, a career coach in Michigan, wrote a very interesting post about managers developing trust in the workplace. In it, she talks about some of the ways that leaders can encourage their employees to trust them. Another great point she brings up is that “trust is a two-way street.” It’s not only managers who need to build trust; everyone from each level of an organization needs to act in a way that develops trust. There are many good suggestions given on there.

The other thing is a cool story I heard.

A person was a leader in a production facility. One of his employees had a question about what he was working on; the leader wasn’t quite sure, either, so he said, “Go ahead and do it this way. If it doesn’t work out, it’s my fault.”

Later that day, a second employee in the process received the work from the first employee, but was not able to complete his part of the production due to problems with the work. When the second employee complained about the work, the leader said, “I’m the one who told him to do it that way, but I guess it didn’t work out. I apologize for that.”

The second employee looked at the leader wide-eyed. “You authorized this?”

“Yeah, I did,” the leader nodded. “I can see that I made a mistake.”

The first employee heard about how the leader didn’t just throw him under the bus, but took ownership of the error. When he saw the leader, he expressed his gratitude for the leader sticking up for him.

So often, when a mistake is made, the first instinct is to cover it up. But, by being truthful about who made the call to complete the work that particular way, this leader built a tremendous amount of trust. Not only the employee he had instructed to do the work would trust him more, but the other employee who knew what had transpired would have more respect for and trust in the leader. And the reputation of trustworthiness will follow that leader wherever he goes in that facility.

Now, no matter where you are in your career — if you are in a job you love, in a job you hate, between jobs, starting out at an entry-level job, or worked your way up to a management level — think about how you have conducted yourself at work to build trust. How has it worked for you?

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