Do Your Employees Trust, or Merely Tolerate, You?

By Jay Forte

You say you want the best from your employees.

You want them to freely challenge, think, invent, offer and respond. You want them to take risks because, down deep, you believe that a day without a screw-up is, according to Tom Peters, a day without enough reach. You want them to do pull out the stops and consistently do amazing things for your customers.

So, let me share some of the management behaviors I have seen when employees take initiative, make mistakes and try to do big things for customers:

  • You remind them you have policies that don’t need thinking to be followed.
  • You scream, yell and intimidate them when they make a mistake, forget something or get an order wrong.
  • You criticize them for giving the business away to a customer who wanted a credit on an order.
  • You throw a memo with an idea to expand the level of service, start a new service, change a product, etc. into the trash and rant that it was ridiculous to propose.

Okay, maybe you don’t do all of these. But if you do any of these, your behavior speaks louder than your intentions. Your employees believe what they see, more than what you say.

Moveover, this is a discussion about trust. When employees trust you to openly welcome their ideas, they offer them. When they feel personally responsible for a bad decision, and not afraid of your reaction, they bring it forward, fix it, and learn from it. When they know that you will value any idea, no matter how unorthodox (because the workplace is now so unorthodox), they will have the courage to bring it forward and discuss it.

You set the tone. Is there one of trust and support, or intimidation?

Notice what your employees do and say around you. This will show you if they trust you or tolerate you.

Employees who tolerate you have little loyalty and less exceptional performance — they play it safe. Employees who trust you are more loyal and more committed to achieving significant results — they push the limits for greatness.

And isn’t that what you pay them for?
Originally published: Aug 9, 2011

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