Safety Leader

Do Good and Disappear: Establishing trust as a manager

Published On
Aug 12, 2021

One of the most difficult accomplishments for a leader is gaining their employees’ trust. Many managers struggle with this aspect of their job. They believe that to establish trust, they need to integrate themselves into the crew. They believe that once this occurs, the crew will trust them. A lot of us have fallen into this trap. We become too close to our workers, which can cloud objectivity and, in some circumstances, impact the ability to lead because the crew sees us as one of them. Management direction can be hard to communicate.

So, how do we establish trust and continue to function effectively as a manager? While it is important to establish a relationship with your employees, it is also essential that you are able to separate the personal and professional aspects of the job. Fortunately, several techniques can assist you in establishing trust. 

Be open and honest with your employees by explaining to them the reasons behind the tasks you are assigning them. While they may not agree, they will have a better understanding of the objective and appreciate you for communicating clearly. 

Positive reinforcement is another key to creating an atmosphere for success. How many of us have learned the hard way after we’ve commented, “We’re doing it this way because I said so!” Or, how many of us have echoed “Unbelievable! Don’t you have any training for this job?” As an alternative, try saying comments such as the following:

“My initial plan is for us to do the job this way. Are there any thoughts on a different or efficient way?” 

“During your training session, this particular job was demonstrated this certain way. Why did you choose to do it the way you did?”

“Let me show you the way I was trained to do this task.”

By rephrasing your comments in a noncombative manner, you keep the level of communication participative. You may be wondering, what does that have to do with trust? If your employees feel that they are part of the process, they begin to believe—and yes trust—that management is looking to get the job done while valuing their input and having their best interests at heart. Remember, when you treat your employees like people and not just production mechanisms, you reap the rewards in more ways than one.

Another way managers can gain employees’ trust is by admitting their own failure. There is nothing wrong with conceding that your idea didn’t work and the project could fail as a result. By sharing this story, employees see another side of their manager—one that is not perfect and owns up to their mistakes, rather than blaming others. When you do this, employees see that you take ownership for your actions and will respect and trust you more.

Remember, as the manager, it is your responsibility to ensure the job gets done. As such, a good rule of thumb that I learned from a former boss is this simple phrase: “Do good and disappear!” From my perspective, this means that you, as the manager, don’t need the limelight. The organization already values you by reason of your position as manager. Share the credit with the team; without them, there would not have been a success. Conversely, when success is not achieved, it is you—the manager—that should take the blame. You are the leader, so the responsibility for success (or failure) is on your shoulders. Acting in this way will help the team to see that you have their backs, and trust can be built from these small actions.

Trust is just one of the many aspects of being a good manager. Once you establish it, you can lead your team to success if you remember some key ideas:

Seek input from your employees. 

Always be honest in delivering information.

Take responsibility for your actions.

Give credit to your team, because without them, you cannot succeed.

Have your employees’ backs.

By practicing these simple steps, you will have an easier time establishing trust among your workers. And always remember, do good and disappear!

About the Author

Chuck Kelly

Kelly, president of Kelly Consulting & Mediation Services, has worked with utility industry leaders on safety, labor relations and human resources for more than 30 years. Reach him at 540-686-0118 or cklk3@yahoo.com.

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