Some leaders are surprised to find out their employees just don’t trust them. How to avoid that awful feeling?
Over the last few decades, leaders learned to care for their employees, to motivate them and give positive feedback. Many have overcome the entrapments of Taylor’s scientific management and appreciate that the building blocks of any company are the people that invest much of the week’s schedule in the company itself. And people should be respected and treated right. Suddenly, though, something happens that tempts these leaders to return to a ‘command and control’ setting: they suddenly learn their employees do not trust them. They feel like they are the enemy, and they are seen with suspicion, discomfort, and talked about behind their backs. So here are 3 ways to avoid this from happening.
1. Help them set and fulfill their goals — Most companies are steadfast ready to engage their employees with the overall goal. They have worked hard to set up a Mission and a Vision and expect all employees to be working for that, regardless of their own life. That is unrealistic and myopic. Most people have their own goals and are primarily working to achieve them. Leaders tend to believe everyone is reaching for pay at the end of the month, more money or recognition and promotion. But that has not been the case for a long time. I’ve learned that people have all kinds of motives for getting out of bed and getting to work every day. Some just take pleasure in some aspects of it, so a salesman can become resentful for being promoted to supervisor. Or they want to get their kids through college and then go travel the world. Or they want to learn for three or four years so they can go build a business of their own. Or just accumulate enough money to restore their classic car. Most companies and most leaders are oblivious of their employees’ goals and so they are unable to help them fulfill them and are surprised that this negligent attitude is replicated by the employees towards the company. After all, the employees were just pretending to care about the company’s goal — just as the company doesn’t care about their goals. To find out what your employees want, just ask them. And then help them fulfill their goals — and you’ll find they will help you fulfill yours.
2. Promote clarity in the system — Over the years I have found that most of the disenchantment and demotivation within organizations comes from misunderstandings about what is expected, and what is valued, and what should be happening, and isn’t. Many leaders tend to hide the fact that they are unable to explain what they want or they don’t know themselves. Some companies invest a whole deal in the agility and the clarity of the system but don’t value it enough. It’s a difficult task, but it is one that inherently brings lasting benefits. Still, a trusted leader will find it wise to over-explain, to ask again and again if everyone knows what to do, what are the deadlines, what is the definition of ‘done’, who is responsible for what. Remember: the responsibility of many is the responsibility of none; deadlines aren’t obvious; tasks can be confusing and not bring the expected results.
3. Learn to take criticism — We all have points of view. One difficult task for a manager or a leader is to evaluate their employees or team members. It’s important to understand the resources available to be able to plan and develop the organization. But it is sometimes frustrating that the employees are not performing, not doing what’s been asked, not getting the results they are supposed to. Leaders are also being evaluated by their peers and their superiors, so when their people are not delivering, it’s on them. But here’s the catch: the way to improve is to actively understand what can be done better, and the first to have to change is the leader. Most employees are shy to point out what they need or what they dislike or resent in their leader. It will be uncomfortable at first, but the leader has everything to gain by developing the habit of listening attentively.
I hope this is useful and makes sense to you. Remember: trust goes both ways.