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You Need Just One Hour To Kickstart a Trust Action Plan

vantage point illustration
When it comes to building a formalized trust program, you don't have to do everything at once. [illustration credit:Petra Sitaru]

How can you take something as abstract and philosophical as trust and break it down into tangible, action-oriented steps? These execs have ideas.

With trust in government and the media gradually eroding, business leaders have a vacuum to fill. For the first time in decades, the global business community has an opportunity to lead through unstable times. But record turnover — 88% of executives report higher than normal turnover, according to PwC — suggests there may be more work to be done to build trust in the workplace. How can executives take something as abstract and philosophical as trust and break it down into tangible, action-oriented steps? We asked three executives to help us get started, by sharing what you can do in one hour, one quarter, and one year.   

What you can do in an hour

Justin Blake, Global Chair, Executive Positioning, Edelman and Executive Director, Edelman Trust Institute

Be curious. As a business leader, it’s important to foster reciprocal relationships with your entire universe of shareholders, employees, partners, and customers. It’s essential to not make it a one-way transaction. Asking about the needs and wants of these individuals or groups is key to delivering value, which ultimately builds trust; and approaching all interactions with genuine curiosity and a desire to build a more meaningful relationship is the proper starting point. 

Lori Castillo Martinez, Executive Vice President & Chief Equality Officer, Salesforce

Be empathetic. Define what empathy means for you and your team, and create a safe space so your employees feel encouraged to share what they need to succeed in the workplace. By leading with empathy, management supports a healthy environment where employees can truly thrive.

Bryan Dobson, Co-founder and Head of Technology, Bower House Digital

Be open. To build trust in the short term, it is not enough to talk about transparency. It’s equally important to stay quiet and actively listen to your team. That means doing things as simple as putting your phone away, shutting off your laptop, and asking a few open-ended questions in an effort to learn more. The mere act of engaging and actively listening is enough, at least in the very short term, to show an employee you trust them. These immediate and open interactions will demonstrate that you are on their side more than any corporate messaging will.

This article appears in Vantage Point, a Salesforce magazine

What you can do in a quarter

Hendrik Adam, Founder and CEO, DIA Digital Group

Regularly collect feedback. Give your employees an opportunity to be open, candid, and straightforward with you and your company. But don’t expect employees to simply email you out of the blue. Establish a regular process for soliciting and collecting employee feedback, in a way that feels consistent, safe, and open. Take the constructive criticism that you receive seriously, and make visible efforts to adjust that behavior before the next cycle of feedback gathering kicks off.

Bryan Dobson, Co-founder and Head of Technology, Bower House Digital

Embrace the progress report. Many leaders postpone giving company updates and stay silent when they fear they haven’t made enough progress on internal initiatives. Unfortunately, keeping quiet erodes your teams’ trust in you even further. Instead, get in the practice of over-communicating, even (or especially) when you feel there is not much news to report. Your teams will equate a lack of communication with inaction on your part, but they will welcome over-communication whenever possible. It reminds them that their interests and opinions continue to be your priority, even if you are simply reporting on stalled progress. 

Chris Timmerman, Managing partner and co-founder, Waeg

Defer judgment. The most trusted leaders, especially in the era of remote work, quickly recognize that each of their employees has needs, feelings, and a personal life that we may only partially have access to. Part of the trust-building exercise is to catch yourself making snap judgments about the employee who didn’t deliver in precisely the way you were anticipating. Who knows what they are dealing with behind the Zoom camera? Once a quarter, seriously reflect on whether you’ve been expressing each member of your team empathy, awareness, and understanding.

What you can do in a year

Hendrik Adam, Founder and CEO, DIA Digital Group

Set achievable goals. Your annual goals should be ambitious and inspiring, but achievable. Setting goals that stretch the limits of reality communicates to your employees that you are setting them up to fail. That is obviously a trust killer, not a trust builder. Instead, communicate your company’s vision in an accessible way, and be crystal clear about how every single employee can contribute to making that goal a reality. Set the bar high, but set it humanely. Nobody likes to feel trapped in a web of unrealistic expectations. 

Chris Timmerman, Managing partner and co-founder, Waeg

Create a values rubric. I run every business decision I make against three core values we apply daily: integrity, commitment, and excellence. Each of these values are fleshed out and mean something specific to the organization. In our case, integrity means doing the right thing even if nobody is looking. A big business decision needs to meet all three core values if we’re going to proceed. Your company may have a different values rubric with its own definitions. Whichever values you choose, write them down, give them meaning, and take the time to apply them to each juncture or challenge. In a practical way, as leaders, we build and grow trust by always making a conscious effort to walk our talk, to keep our promises and align our own behavior with what we know is right.

Lori Castillo Martinez, EVP & Chief Equality Officer, Salesforce

Listen to your employees, and act. Take the time to truly understand the realities of your employees and center your approach on how to best support them. In every case, ensure that you always respond with action and follow through. We need to listen to our communities and make sure that we understand the impact work and life has on our employees, especially in moments of vulnerability. With every action you take, understand the impact—and that’s how you’ll show that you’re in this together, with them. 

Empower your team to take charge of their wellbeing

You can take microsteps to help your employees build habits that will have a big impact on your company’s performance.  

Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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