How to Build Trust: Four-Part Leader Communication Formula
Theodore Roosevelt’s often-quoted adage, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care,” is especially true for the way employees view leaders.
The rate of change in organizations is at a record high. Leaders ask their employees to be nimble, adapt quickly and continue to meet or exceed goals. Whether or not employees are motivated to adopt change and remain engaged in their work, largely depends on their level of trust in leaders.
Leaders want to increase trust because it is part of one positive chain reaction that can impact their bottom line: increased trust -> increased engagement -> increased retention of top talent -> increased performance.
In one recent analysis, investigators evaluated a large sample of leader assessments and found the three most important factors for earning employee trust are: building positive relationships, demonstrating good judgement, and being consistent. Of these, building positive relationships was the most essential for earning trust.
I have a unique perspective as both a counselor who has worked hand-in-hand with executives across industries to develop and deliver communications strategies and, as an employee who has been on the receiving end of them. I’ve seen many leaders so focused on efficiently delivering the facts “data dump” style, that they miss valuable opportunities to truly connect with their team.
To maximize every communication opportunity, I recommend leaders follow this four-part formula (with some examples for each component):
1. Inspire confidence and share authentic experience
- Provide growth vision or spotlight a core value, always with personal reflections and examples
- Show personality with childhood, career or industry stories of failure and triumph (more memorable if you illustrate with photos or videos)
- Promote growth mindset with development recommendations (courses, podcasts, books) and learnings from mentors
2. Educate on priorities and challenges
- Review the state of the business and progress against strategic objectives
- Announce changes for today and tomorrow – ask for employees’ support with specific “asks” and underscore their role in success
3. Celebrate objective or value-aligned success
- Use a storytelling format to highlight critical project or community engagement success and key players, varying groups for representation across the organization
- Feature firsthand success stories from employees to increase visibility for a variety of people and roles (video is an ideal format when the communication is not live)
4. Listen and respond to employees’ questions and concerns
- Include live Q&A (individual or panel) or maintain an open survey to field questions any time
- Look for opportunities to showcase concerns employees raised and solutions in future “Inspire” or “Celebrate” segments
- Hold an anonymous real-time poll to gauge depth and impact of an issue you know is hurting culture, engagement and performance, and commit to working with your team to investigate and improve it and to provide an update on progress in a realistic window of time
The key to success with this leader communication formula is consistency. Include all components regardless of the communication setting (live or virtual) or vehicle (video, meeting, email, etc.), adjusting the order and emphasis for the current business situation.
Could you use help building a leader communication plan that increases stakeholder trust, engagement and change adoption? We’d love to learn more!