If you haven’t heard the following statistic before, prepare to be surprised. According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, it was found that 58% of people say they trust strangers more than their own boss. Yes, you read that right ,and if you’re troubled by it, you should be.
As leaders, it’s imperative we build relationships based on trust and mutual respect. Without it, it can be far more difficult than it has to be to achieve our mandate and have positive and productive day-to-day interactions with those in our charge.
Remember, trust and respect doesn’t just happen. You cannot just will an employee to do so. Instead, you must earn it; and the only way to do so is with time and intentionality.
If all this has you wondering if your actions and behaviors as a leader are earning your employee’s trust and respect, or impeding it, take the following quiz to get a general idea about where you currently are on the journey.
A crucial part of gaining your employee's trust and respect is having integrity. To employees, it means you do what you say you are going to do. Think of your actions and behaviors in the last 6 months, which of the following would best describe you:
- I am very cognizant of doing what I say I am going to do. If I don’t, I quickly make a point to explain to my employees the rationale behind my decisions or actions.
- Most of the time, I do what I say I am going to do, but there have been times where I have overlooked or failed to explain it to my employees, so they don’t really have an understanding of why it happened.
- I do not feel that I owe my employee’s an explanation of my decisions or actions. If I do not do what I say I am going to do, there is a valid reason, and they should trust that.
Finish the following sentence: When my employee makes a mistake, I…
- I take the time to analyze the situation and collect my personal feelings about it. I then reconnect with them in private at a later time to identify the mistake and co-create an action plan to ensure it does not happen again.
- I am somewhere in the middle. How I deal with employees' mistakes depends on the situation and my personal feelings.
- I immediately call it out, even if that means calling it out in front of their peers or in an already high-stress situation.
When it comes to your employee’s strengths and weaknesses, which of the following answers most accurately describes you:
- I am intentional about identifying my employee’s strengths, playing to them, and encouraging them at every opportunity. On the other hand, I recognize their weaknesses and am mindful of coaching them, but it is not my primary focus.
- If my employee overtly displays a strength, I will utilize it but do not go out of my way to identify them. When it comes to their weaknesses, I am actively seeking to minimize them by providing constructive feedback and coaching them.
- I am mainly focused on fixing my employee’s weaknesses or shortcomings.
Think of the last time one of your employees was struggling at work. They may have been showing signs of burnout, making uncharacteristic mistakes, or getting into disputes and conflicts with their colleagues. What did you do?
- I was quick to see something was wrong and that they were struggling. I then promptly dedicated additional time, energy, and resources to support them.
- It took me a little bit to realize something was wrong because they never actually said anything to me. Once I did realize though, I gave additional time, energy, and resources to support them.
- It took me far too long to realize something was amiss and may have even taken a major event for me to realize. I helped them how I could within my availability but I was already busy so I could only do so much for them.
If your employees were talking to a trusted colleague or friend, what would they say regarding their performance and knowing where they stand?
- I always know where I stand in terms of my performance with my boss. I never have to guess or be anxious that they’re not telling me something or sugar-coating the truth.
- I vaguely know where I stand in terms of my performance with my boss. We occasionally discuss my performance but sometimes I think they are hiding things from me or sugar-coating it.
- I do not know where I stand in terms of my performance with my boss. I have to wait for my performance review to know and even then, what they say can sometimes come as a surprise to me.
Think about your team meetings. What kind of environment have you created and are you proud of it?
- I have intentionally created an environment of psychological safety for all my team members and am proud of it. It means that when we are in a team meeting, everyone contributes without fear of ridicule. By doing so, I’ve seen our team meetings become more positive and productive.
- I am putting thought behind the way I run my team meetings in an attempt to create an environment of psychological safety for all. So far, my employees are responding well and negative or backhanded comments are becoming less and less common.
- I have not put a lot of thought into the environment of our team meetings. I am more focused on getting through the topics I need to discuss with them.
When it comes to delegating tasks to employees, which most accurately describes you:
- I often delegate and grant my employee’s the autonomy to do the work I assigned them, even if it’s not how I would do it. I also know they will come to me if or when they need help and that they will do their very best to make it a success.
- I delegate but I have been known to hover, require frequent updates, or correct an employee based on my personal preferences, which then interferes with the outcome of the task or my employee’s confidence.
- I rarely, if ever, delegate. Even if I wanted to, I am usually too worried or anxious about it going wrong to let it go.
Think of a time when your employee approached you and was upset about the way a colleague spoke to them, either on your team or not, or a superior that is not you. You agree that it was inappropriate. What did you do next?
- I promptly formulated a course of action, whether it be to approach the individual directly or their superior. I believe my role as a people leader is to advocate and stand up for my employees and therefore, I took the appropriate steps to ensure the situation through until it was fully resolved.
- I acknowledged the situation with my employee and coached them through it. I did not address it with the other party though, whether to avoid the difficult conversation or out of fear of causing “unnecessary drama.”
- I did not address the situation, brushed it off, or let my employees handle it themselves.
Results: Are You Giving Employees a Reason to Trust and Respect You?
Mostly A’s - Yes you are but keep it up!
If you confidently answered mostly A’s to the questions above, then you are taking meaningful steps to earn your employee’s trust and build a relationship of mutual respect. This is important because trust and respect in the workplace, especially between a direct leader and employee, correlates to lower turnover, higher employee engagement, less burnout, more innovation, and higher productivity. Therefore, you should keep doing what you’re doing! The investment of time, energy, and resources into building trust and respect is one that pays back in spades.
Mostly B’s - Sort of yes, sort of no.
If your answers were a bit all over the place, but mostly B’s, then you’re probably on track to eventually have a relationship of mutual respect and two-way trust with your employees. Though if you want that relationship to form faster or be stronger, your efforts will need to be taken up a notch. Hint: Look at all the A’s in this quiz and use them to inform your actions and behaviors going forward as they are all ideal ways to build trust and respect.
Mostly C’s - There is room for improvement.
There’s no easy way to say it; if you answered mostly C’s to the questions above, you need to evaluate your approach in the future if you want to earn your employee’s trust and respect and get it in return. In this case, you may consider investing in a leadership development program. It will provide you with the fundamental skills you need to build a relationship based on trust and respect, such as giving feedback, coaching employees, engaging in difficult conversations, and discussing performance.
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