It’s well known that trust underpins good working relationships. The more employees trust their manager, and vice versa, the more they work effectively together: managers will delegate responsibility and employees will go the extra mile.
Building trust is important, not just because it underpins a good working relationship, but because by building trust managers can achieve significant improvements in employee performance and motivate their team to go that extra mile.
High levels of trust make a positive impact on employees’ attitudes, performance and behaviour according to the Institute of Business Ethics. In particular it improves:
- Employee engagement
- Co-operation and problem solving
- Information sharing and knowledge exchange
- Operational efficiencies
- Working environment
- Individual, team and organisational performance
As a result high levels of trust empower managers and senior leaders to both take and manage risks and try new things, both of which are essential if an organisation wants to grow and develop.
The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) asked respondents to a survey to rank qualities that they rated as one of their top three drivers of trust. The resulting report, ‘The truth about trust: Honesty and integrity at work’, highlights five fundamental skills and qualities that leaders need in order to be trusted. These are:
- Openness (70% of respondents)
- Effective communication (53%)
- Ability to make decisions (49%)
- Integrity (48%)
- Competence in their role (42%)
It’s clear from the report that businesses that want to improve the levels of trust between employees and managers, and therefore improve employee and business performance, need to focus on ensuring managers develop these five skills.
Improved openness makes employees feel that their managers are available and approachable.
There are several ways managers can improve their openness at work: frequent conversations and updates with team members, acknowledging each employee as an individual and making them feel a valued part of the team and ensuring information about the business such as goals, vision and financial performance is readily available.
Effective communication is essential in order to provide information that helps employees feel part of the organisation. It also helps when it comes to supporting employees, problem solving and bringing about change.
Most job descriptions for managers include good communication skills, but some managers are poor communicators. Managers can improve their communication by undertaking training that teaches them to recognise barriers to good communication, how to listen and how to deal with difficult employees. They should also ensure that they are giving and receiving feedback from their employees.
Ability to make decisions
The ability to make decisions quickly and consistently is a necessary management skill, otherwise employees can feel as if they don’t know what’s happening or worse they could feel as if they are stuck inside a Dilbert comic strip.
Managers can make tens, if not hundreds, of decisions every day. The important thing is to recognise that they can’t work on every decision at once. That means managers need to be recognise the decisions that matter most: which ones add the most value to the business and which need the most management attention.
Personal integrity is an essential ingredient for a manager, otherwise they will be laying themselves open to claims of favouritism and inconsistent behaviour.
Personal integrity is often about walking the walk, not just talking the talk. When it comes to improving integrity then managers should practice being honest in all their communications, both at work and outside of work. They should also keep their promises, be dependable and be consistent in how they treat all their employees.
Competence in their role
It’s obvious that managers need to have the skills to do their job properly, but when people are promoted into their first management role often they don’t have all the skills they need: especially when it comes to the soft skills.
Working with their own manager, the competencies needed for their role should be integrated into the performance management process. As well as covering ‘what’ was and was not achieved, the performance management process should also look at ‘how’ and ‘why’. Managers own managers need to provide feedback, support and mentoring to enable new managers to develop the skills and knowledge they need.
There are a number of ways employers and HR professionals can ensure that their managers are developing these key skills. Training courses, on the job training, informal feedback and mentoring can all assist managers in their development, and so lead to a more successful organisation that supports employee training, leadership development and high performance.