frustrated_employeeBefore writing this article I went on the internet to find statistics about my idea.

Searching for “trust statistics in workplace”, I was hoping to find a data point or two on which came first:  the lack of trust or inadequate communication.

The results were surprising. I didn’t even need to explore the reports, the headlines told the story:

  • “Do Your Employees Trust You? ~Gallup
  • “15 Shocking Statistics about Engagement in the Workplace” ~Novarete
  • “82% of People Don’t Trust the Boss To Tell the Truth” ~Forbes

Anyone who has worked in corporate America, and is familiar with the well-meaning employee satisfaction survey, knows that it is very typical to have both trust and communication surface as top issues when it comes to leadership.

Who is always responsible? The manager. This pivotal point in workplace structure holds all the cards. The manager is the person people trust (or distrust) the most. How this individual deals with people on his or her team, the tone that is set for sharing ideas, and how much the group can count on its leader to carry-through on what has been said, determines the organization’s ability to thrive. It sets the culture.

If you’ve got a great manager you can create a highly productive team in a lousy organization. On the other hand, no matter how good the organization is, if you have a crappy team leader, nothing works very well. How the person at the helm leads makes or breaks a team – formal or virtual. (By virtual I mean any formal or informal group that has someone in the manager / supervisor / boss role.)

Egalitarian Leadership

The manager role can be played out in one of four ways.

  1. Autocratic. The autocratic manager gets “99” votes; the employee gets “1”.
    In most situations, this leadership style is no longer preferred. But there are times when it is required. Some business situations certainly require a unilateral decision. That’s when autocratic leadership is at its best. Using this style sparingly helps to build trust.
  2. Democratic. The democratic manager wants everyone to agree. Decisions are based on a majority vote. Using this style too frequently can drag down initiatives and stall action. But listening and working out a true consensus when possible is good for trust building.
  3. Benevolent. “I know what is good for our employees; I don’t need to ask them.” That’s what you hear from a manager in benevolent mode. While this style may have its place at times, it is not an inclusive approach. It’s not a great trust builder.
  4. Egalitarian. Egalitarian managers know that everyone is equal … that every worker’s role is valued … from the janitor to the president. Each has a unique contribution to make. This mutual respect approach builds the strongest trust.

Building Trust as an Egalitarian Leader

There are three ways an egalitarian leader builds trust.

#1. Have a core belief in MUTUAL RESPECT for every individual in the organization. Know, unequivocally that each person brings value, plays an essential role. This perspective is at the root of egalitarian leadership and a building block for mutual trust.

#2. Be someone who ACTIVELY LISTENS. Be willing, able and eager to hear the ideas and opinions of every individual on your team. Create a safe environment for suggesting out of the box ideas and disagreeing with yours. Make sure they have no fear of reprisal or pre-judgement. Give them, and their feedback, the respect they deserve. Make it possible so that they have no desire for anonymity. This builds trust that has people willing to give true feedback.

#3. An egalitarian leader CARRYS-THROUGH. Managers can’t commit to something and then ignore, forget or disregard it. Do what you say you will. Be truly committed to the success of each individual. That will translate into success for the team and the organization.

So which comes first … trust or communication? You tell me. In many ways, it’s a Catch-22. But the good news is, try a little of both and you can inch your way into a vibrant, trusting team where effective communications is the glue.