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3 steps to build trust and respect in the workplace


From fostering a leadership team with humility to confronting brutal facts, it’s not easy to take your business to the next level. However, when you really look at it, it all comes down to trust and respect in the workplace.

In the book Good to Great, author Jim Collins set out to identify how to turn a mediocre, or good, company into a great one. The importance of trust and respect was a major theme of his conclusion.

Unfortunately, in a fast-paced environment, it’s easy for foundational company values like this to go by the wayside when they aren’t intentionally prioritized.

The solution is understanding each other, communicating efficiently and creating an environment where people can be individuals. When all three are achieved, you get a more productive and creative workforce.

Need some help prioritizing trust and respect in your business? Here’s how you can refocus.

1. Engage employees on their terms

While trust is a belief in your employees, respect is that trust in action. A relationship based on trust and respect requires every team member to take responsibility for their actions – including you, as the leader.

In fact, at the helm of your business, it’s primarily your responsibility to set a positive course and mobilize employees.

If you want to truly model these values and foster a positive work environment, not only does this require you to care, but it requires you to listen to employees.

Every employee brings unique values, strengths and communication methods. Take the time to get to know your employees on an individual basis, and encourage them to get to know one another. When issues arise, you can better tailor the conversation to the individual.

For example, if you know that your employee is an extrovert who loves human interaction, consider stopping by their desk to solve a problem face-to-face rather than trying to resolve it over an email thread.

Or, if an employee is an introvert who prefers taking care of matters over chat, feel free to send an instant message.

When you adapt to the individual, you demonstrate an awareness of their unique character. This helps them to feel respected and helps you to earn their mutual respect as well. And when employees are treated with respect, they tend to pay it forward to others.

2. Communicate goals, directions and expectations

Just as listening is vital, so is your communication.

It may be time to take an honest look at your own actions. Are you prioritizing communication with leaders at the top of your company? Or, do you take the time to explain your business’s changing needs to your individual contributors on the ground?

Employees want to hear from their bosses. They want to understand why decisions are being made. And they want to have enough information to make educated decisions in their role. These are all critical factors in their level of engagement.

If key messages and goals are only shared at the top of the organization, employees may grow disinterested, lose enthusiasm and even become insensitive – all behaviors that negatively affect the levels of trust and respect in an organization.

If you’re finding that these types of attitudes are rampant in your company, be the change you want to see. When you’re honest and speak from your heart, people know. Sincerity goes a long way.

As a leader, you should be open, approachable and committed to communicating the impact of each team member’s contributions. Employees feel valued when they understand how their work contributes to the big picture.

Set clear goals to ensure employees’ job duties are aligned with business goals. By providing each employee with information on how their work makes a difference, it supports them in being a valued part of the company’s success.

Treat people like they can make a difference in your business, and they will.

3. Create a safe environment

Do your employees feel free to share their honest opinion about your business strategies? Or, do you expect them to carry out their duties without questioning the approach?

With a foundation of trust and respect, employees should feel safe challenging the status quo.

While some discomfort might come with this, innovation and industry disruption are born from giving employees the safety to share their opinions without fear.

Unfortunately, the side effect to this is that some disagreements are inevitable. Too often, leaders see disagreements in a negative light, and they place blame on employees for not getting along.

Try not to look at these situations negatively. If employees are openly sharing their opinions, it’s likely to the benefit of your business. Conflict can be healthy.

As disagreements occur, encourage employees to try resolve matters on their own. Emphasize that conflicts should be resolved respectfully by giving each party time to explain their perspective without interruption.

However, you might need to get involved if matters reach a stalemate. If that’s the case, speak to each employee involved in the disagreement. As you get all sides of the issue, embrace the honesty and even the discomfort. Then, coach your team members to some middle ground.

For example, you might ask all parties involved to identify and explain something positive about the opposing viewpoint. This can help gain consensus on the path forward.

By creating a safe space where employees are trusted to bring their opinions to the forefront – and showing them they can work through conflict – you’ll be setting up your business for success.

Move forward with a renewed focus on trust and respect

As you improve your listening and communication, you’re not only creating a safe space for your employees to innovate, you’re also fostering an environment where employees feel trusted and respected. This intersection is the sweet spot where employees – and your company – thrive.

Overall, this should make your business a more attractive place to work. You might find this will reduce your need to recruit new talent as employee retention becomes easier.

There should be bottom-line benefits, too. When everyone is working together harmoniously, it’s easier to hit your targets and keep growing.

Want more advice like this? Download our complimentary magazine: Building a Better Team: How to Attract, Recruit and Hire Top Talent to learn more.