All organisations, large and small, should be built on the foundations of transparency and trust. Companies should instil those core values among all of their employees, at every level, and ensure everything they do is done with integrity. Because once you lose your employees’ or customers’ trust, it isn’t easy to rebuild.
Here are three ways organisations can ensure trust comes naturally — and is never sabotaged:
1) Be bold and realistic: If you need employees to believe one thing about your organisation, it’s that you can and will execute on your vision over the course of many years. This means your vision has to be captivating, yet realistic. (For example, you should never promise world domination within a few weeks’ time.) You have to strike a balance: compel hundreds or even thousands of people to be part of your long-term plan, while setting achievable expectations.
The key is be bold when setting your goals for the next 10 years, but at the same time putting forth tactical, measurable short-term objectives with achievable deadlines. Ensuring you execute against these goals along the way is crucial to building your employees’ trust in your long-term vision.
You should also make a point to regularly review your long-term view of success — at quarterly off-sites, weekly all-hands meetings and annual sales kick-offs — and communicate your progress (good and bad) to your employees. Transparency is key.
2) Don’t shy away from tough conversations: Brian Tracy once said, “The glue that holds all relationships together — including the relationship between the leader and the led — is trust, and trust is based on integrity." Managers are responsible for building and maintaining trust among their teams — and in order to do that, they must embody company values and keep open, honest lines of communication with employees. As such, managers should be prepared to relay not just good news, but bad news as well.
By avoiding bad news or evading responsibility — giving explanations like, “It wasn’t my decision” or, “It was above my pay grade,” — they will sabotage that trust. Even if those statements are true, circumventing a difficult decision will undermine their credibility as a manager and a leader.
Instead, managers should strive to understand the context of tough decisions so they can help employees come to terms with the outcome. Employees will never be happy with every decision made at the company, but when managers are open and communicative and take responsibility for those decision, they will earn and maintain the trust of their employees.
3) Make difficult staffing decisions quickly: Staffing decisions can also build or damage trust. In the early years at Okta, we waited too long to let go of a few managers who were struggling. We stalled and saw the negative repercussions in the team’s happiness, quality of work and overall productivity.
If a person of authority isn’t performing well, you need to pull the plug immediately. If you don’t, your team will lose trust in you. The leaders you surround yourself with are a reflection of your values, so if you want people’s trust, you’ll need to hold other leaders accountable.
If organisations don’t give their employees a reason to doubt them, they won’t. Building trust goes beyond following the principles of not lying, cheating or stealing from employees. It’s about observing deeper standards — which will allow both managers and employees to execute on the company’s vision over the course of many years. Building trust is hard work. But it is essential to gaining your employees’ trust and building successful, long-term relationships as a result.
By Todd McKinnon, CEO and Co-founder, Okta