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4 mistakes managers make that can destroy trust


When you’re leading your employees along the path to success, are you getting the results you want? Are they open to your suggestions, engaged and giving it their all? Or, do they push back, miss the mark and second-guess your advice?

You may be wondering if you hired the wrong people for the job. Before you make any permanent decisions, you might want to consider a less obvious problem – an underlying lack of trust.

Trust is the foundation of all relationships – and nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace. Without it, employee engagement, morale and productivity go down the drain. As a manager, trust begins with you.

Here are four common scenarios that can cause trust to go out the window and create chaos in the workplace.

1. The hiring switch

Kathy, a skilled graphic designer, is hired to design your new website. She has years of experience in web design and does an excellent job. Once the website is complete, you place her in a new position as project manager over your writing team. She did such a great job at managing your website, you feel confident she will be a great fit. But the writing team starts to miss deadlines, becomes disengaged, and Kathy is calling in sick, cancelling meetings and mishandling projects.

What happened? Most likely, Kathy is not happy in her new role. She was skilled at web design – not managing people. All of sudden, one of your top performers is disengaged and unmotivated, along with her entire team.

Successful leaders hire people for their experience and strengths, and let them shine. Your employees trust that you value their skills and experience, and appreciate their areas of expertise. Moving them into unknown territory where they’re not knowledgeable, and then expecting them to meet the challenge, can create distrust, disengagement and low morale that may have far-reaching consequences.

People like to do what they’re good at – it’s that simple.

To remedy a situation like this, open communication is key. Telling Kathy that you understand her new role is a big change for her, and offering to support her through management training or mentoring, would be a big step toward rebuilding trust. Better still, provide her with the tools she needs to be successful.

2. Unclear communication

Robert, your new salesman, hits the ground running and is excited to connect with potential clients. At the end of the week, he tells you that he uncovered a lot of new leads and is feeling good about his success.

You ask him for details – who he met, where he went – and realize that the so-called leads he found are not in your market at all.

He feels confused, misled and frustrated. You question his ability to get results and think you might have misjudged his capability to do the job.

Is it him? Or is it you?

Good managers know the importance of clear communication. The clearer you can be from the start, the better. Don’t assume your employees understand what you’re asking them to do. Just because it’s clear to you doesn’t mean it is to them. People operate from their best level of understanding – which might not be accurate.

In hindsight, sending Robert out to meet potential customers without providing him with training on his target audience was a big misstep on your part. Taking the time to consider what he needed to be an effective salesman prior to sending him out would have helped him be better prepared.

Promote open communication by encouraging employees to tell you if anything is unclear before they start a project. Likewise, suggest that they come to you for additional direction if they begin to feel confused at any point during a project.

People aren’t mind readers. If your employees are struggling to follow your directions, look back and ask yourself:

Is what I said clear?

Did I give good direction?

Are we both on the same page?

Did I create a good road map for success?

Letting your employees know that they can trust you to support them in their efforts to understand your expectations goes a long way in establishing trust.

3. Leaving out the “why”

Many times when we give people a task we leave out the most important piece – the “why.” You have given them the “what” and the “how,” but without the “why” it’s easy for them to misunderstand your request and head down the wrong path.

Mary is given a project to develop a new marketing campaign. She is a seasoned marketing professional who draws on her experience to create a marketing strategy. You meet with her two weeks later, expecting to sit down and look at her marketing proposal, but she doesn’t have one. Instead, she has met with the writing and design teams to create the messaging and webpage and is ready to launch the campaign. She is feeling great about the job she’s done.

Unfortunately, there is a process that needs to be followed – the proposal, management approval, etc. – so she has completely missed the mark. She explains that this is how she has always created marketing campaigns. She feels you misled her. Trust is broken. Why? Looking back, you realize you didn’t explain the process and why it must be followed in a certain order. If you had spoken with Mary about all the steps and why they’re in place, you would’ve avoided confusion. At the same time, you would’ve validated that her way isn’t wrong, it just isn’t done that way in your business. By addressing the “why” you avoid wasting time and create a trusting relationship.

4. Allowing no room for differences

Everyone has their own way of doing things in the workplace – the way they interact, prioritize activities, and tackle projects. These varied behaviors can cause a multitude of problems including lack of productivity, friction between employees, and low morale.

The solution is for everyone to work toward a better understanding of their individual styles and preferred way of working and communicating.

For example, Ted might like to talk things out, while Mike prefers to create a checklist alone. Half the team wants a quick decision, while the other half needs time to consider all their options first. But how do you figure it out?

One way to gain insight into people’s work styles is through personality and style assessments such as DISC. This popular, time-tested behavioral analysis method helps leaders and employees understand their own and other people’s default behaviors and preferred work styles.

DISC was developed by Harvard psychologist Dr. William Marston. Marston believed that the range of human behavior falls into four types he dubbed Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. A variety of measurement tools have been created since then to help people adapt this theory to the workplace.

The acronym DISC represents the four common behavior styles Marston identified:

D – Dominance
This person wants to get the job done. D’s tend to be fast-paced and task-oriented. They prefer respect, control and challenge.

I – Influence
I’s want to have fun. Also fast-paced, I’s add energy to the room, like lots of people interaction and crave recognition.

S – Steadiness
These individuals want everyone to be nice. S’s tend to be reserved, team-oriented, and slower paced. They support those around them and are good at listening.

C – Conscientiousness
C’s want to be precise and careful. C’s care about the small details and value accuracy. They prefer logic and data-based decisions.

When everyone understands each other’s behavioral tendencies and preferences, they have an easier time finding a middle ground. This leads to better working relationships, higher productivity, and trusting relationships.

When you’re faced with disengaged employees, low productivity and miscommunication, you can turn things around by building a workplace where trust, individual capabilities and open communication are valued. It starts with self-awareness and understanding how your behavior influences others.

Discover more ways to build your employees’ trust and motivate them to be the best they can be. Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-Notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.