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Experts Call on Business Leaders to Nurture Employee Trust, Especially Now

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As anyone in a healthy marriage knows, trust is essential. Without trust, relationships fray and fall apart. The same holds true in the workplace, where trust is foundational to success. This is especially true in times like these.

The global COVID pandemic has driven home the absolute necessity of workplace trust. In a volatile and uncertain business environment, one that’s complicated by fears for personal safety, trust among employees and between employees and management is of paramount importance.

Trust is the glue that allows organizations to innovate, flex and respond quickly – all of which they must do to survive amid fast-changing, unprecedented and unpredictable business conditions.

For leaders, this makes knowing how to build and sustain workplace trust an essential leadership skill for the 21st century.

Workplace trust improves business outcomes

“Given all that’s happening in our world, leaders today simply must shift their focus to building trust with employees. This really should be non-negotiable,” said Dr. Mickey Parsons, founder of The Workplace Coach, an executive coaching and leadership development firm.

Research shows that employees who work in high-trust organizations are more engaged, more energetic, more productive and more loyal, Parsons said. “Businesses are much more likely to weather a crisis like COVD, and even emerge stronger than before, when their workforce is engaged and feels a sense of trust and connectedness.”

Parsons isn’t the only leadership expert calling for a renewed emphasis on trust. The headline on a recent article published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) declared that “Trust Is the New Leadership Test.”

The article, in SHRM’s Winter 2021 People + Strategy Journal, said, “Trust leads to greater resilience in a crisis. If people trust their leaders, they are more willing to take risks, to commit to change and take leaps of faith because they believe their leaders have their best interests at heart.”

Trust builders

How can leaders create or nurture a culture of trust? The SHRM article notes the importance of:

  • open communications and integrity;
  • empowerment of employees and local managers;
  • care and support for employees, and
  • continuity of values and purpose.

For Parsons, who has been involved in leadership coaching and leadership development work for more than 20 years, the secret to fostering a culture of trust is for leaders and managers to learn to coach their employees.

Leaders who coach use skills like active listening and open-ended questions to foster conversations that lead to creative collaboration. They empower their teams to work independently. In doing so, they improve employee ownership of outcomes and ultimately performance, Parsons explained.

Leaders who coach also mentor their employees, giving them meaningful feedback, support and the tools to develop their full potential. And they understand the value of showing compassion and even being vulnerable themselves when times get tough.

Gaining leadership skills

“We have come to believe so strongly in the importance of coaching in the workplace that we expanded beyond executive leadership coaching to add an online program called Certified Leader Coach®. This program makes leader-as-coach training more broadly accessible to managers and aspiring leaders, while being an excellent complement to individual coaching,” Parsons said.

The need for programs that support managers in developing their leadership skills is clear. One study found that managers typically go 10 years before receiving any leadership training. In the absence of such training, managers run the risk of alienating employees, something that no organization can afford.

The COVID pandemic has tested and continues to test leaders and their organizations across the board. And while the challenges faced by individual organizations vary in their specifics, the need to cultivate a resilient workforce that is capable of meeting these challenges has never been more evident.

For a growing number of leadership and workforce experts, the secret to meeting the challenges of today and the unknown challenges of tomorrow is to ensure that leaders have the skills to build and nurture workplace trust.

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