Building trust through communication

Listening to the radio last week I heard a Japanese woman being interviewed about the latest health scare in Tokyo. Referring to the government she said ‘I just don’t trust what they tell us any more’.

Trust is hard to win but easily lost.  Once that trust is lost your job as leader becomes at best hard, at worst impossible.  Business leaders will never have to lead their people through a crisis of the magnitude of that facing Japan but how will you get your employees behind you to work together to a common goal if they don’t trust you?

In times of crisis people look to trusted leaders for direction. An essential element of building and maintaining trust amongst your people is the way that you communicate.  To inspire trust communication should:

  • Be open and honest – people want to hear the truth not corporate spin that avoids or conceals the true situation. If you don’t have all the answers, say so.
  • Reinforce the common challenge – emphasise the shared purpose and risks.  Stress the ‘we’ rather than the ‘you’ – we all face this together.     
  • Respond to people’s concerns –listening to your people to understand their concerns will enable you to address them in your communication.  Once these have been acknowledged people are better able to focus on your key messages about what you need them to do.
  • Be personal and natural – allow people to ‘see’ you in the message – this is a message from their leader – not the legal department.  Add clarity by avoiding corporate speak and jargon but don’t dumb down so much as to seem patronising.
  • Reflect your behaviours – if you say one thing yet do another you become untrustworthy – there should be a consistency between your messages and your actions
  • Build confidence in your competence – reinforce why people should trust you – your track record, your approach, particular skills appropriate to the situation.

As in any relationship, trust between leader and employees needs to be nurtured and once established it needs to be carefully maintained. Each time it is broken it becomes more difficult to repair.  Good communication can help cement the trust that provides a solid foundation for engaging employees in good times as well as bad.

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It’s good to talk – 10 tips for great team briefings

In this age of technology regular face to face communication sometimes gets overlooked. Worse still it can be seen as a chore – a special effort to communicate with ‘hard to reach’ field, factory or shop based employees.

Yet regular team briefings give managers a means to engage their teams and to strengthen their role as leaders. Briefings are as beneficial for ‘connected’ teams as those without access to technology – providing the opportunity for sharing information, gathering feedback and building team spirit. In our experience we have seen teams that have regular, well-managed briefings outperform those who don’t.

So how can you make your team talks as effective as possible?

1. Commit – schedule them in to make sure they happen regularly.

2. Prepare – be clear on what you want people to DO differently as a result of your team talk.

3. Be natural – a fairly informal basis approach works best – try to avoid death by PowerPoint.

4. Give context – talk about the overall business strategy but remember to translate it in to ‘so what does this mean for me’. Customer satisfaction, team performance and key competitor information can all provide the context for understanding ‘how my work contributes to company performance’.

5. Focus – what are the 3 key messages you want them to take away? Sign post to other sources of information if necessary – don’t overwhelm your people in the team talk.

6. Clarify – round up any procedural or policy changes that have taken place since the last meeting to ensure employees understand if and how they are affected.

7. Listen – listening is as important as talking. If  you are not getting  feedback or queries are not forthcoming ask some questions to build dialog and gauge understanding

8. Be honest – don’t be afraid of not having all the answers. It’s ok to say “I don’t know the answer to that but I’ll get back to you by X”. Just make sure that you do!

9. Connect – think about how your team talk can build team spirit eg welcoming new members of the team; how can we improve performance together etc. Celebrate success – individual or team – and don’t use the briefing for telling off.

10. Follow up – each team talk should flow from the previous one (“last time, we said we needed to do better on xyz – well done! Now we need to…”)

What are your top tips for effective team briefings? You can tell us using the comments box below.