Trust: How to Give it and Have it as a Small Business Owner

By Jessica Thiefels|12-11-2020 | 5 Min Read

Within your organisation, trust can have tangible and intangible benefits to your communication, productivity, and turnover. Paul J. Zak, author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies, found that employees at high-trust companies have 74 per cent less stress and 50 per cent higher productivity. The power of trust has also been linked to lower burnout rates and higher levels of happiness.
 
Unfortunately, trust isn’t just something you can install in the breakroom or introduce at a town hall meeting without any meaningful change. Building trust takes time and requires both employer and employee buy-in.
 
As a small business owner, you have the power to build trust in your organisation from the ground up. Here are a few ways to do it.

Lead by example

One of the best rules of business is still the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. Employers who want the trust of their teams need to lead by example.
 
“The number one leadership principle I rely on to manage our business team is to lead from behind. I seek to empower our staff and recognise that true leadership means trusting our employees and giving them the latitude to make decisions,” says Scott J. Corwin, Attorney and President of Scott J. Corwin, A Professional Law Corporation.
 
The level of trust in an organisation can easily be seen in how a manager leads. A low-trust business owner will micromanage staff members, checking over their shoulders and setting up policies that limit their autonomy. These micromanagers are often bad at delegating because they don’t trust their team members to do the work correctly.
 
The good news is that trust snowballs on itself. When your employees respect you and reach the goals you set, you can trust them to take on more. They can then rise to the occasion, further building your trust.

Read:Why Trust Is The Most Valuable Of All Business Assets

Get to know the people who work for you

One way to build trust within your team is to form personal connections with the people you hire. It is possible to form friendships and professional relationships while still maintaining your respected position as their boss. These relationships can help you learn more about your team members, including strengths you may not have realised, and build a foundation of mutual respect and trust.
 
“The best leaders actively build relationships with their people each and every day. In fact, they put this activity ahead of business, because they know that companies can’t make a profit without people,” says Steven Hopper, former high school teacher turned business consultant.
 
Business is inherently personal. Managers who view their team members as people instead of just metrics or liabilities are more likely to have happy professional teams who want to move the company forward.

Be trusting, but stay aware

Having a strong professional relationship with your employees and deeply trusting them doesn’t mean you overlook instances when they betray your trust. Many business owners still have a process of checks and balances to keep an eye on staff members even when they trust them.
 
For example, a manager might give an employee a new project. Instead of telling them how to do the project, like a micromanager, this leader will instead provide clear instructions and set up a few mid-project checkpoints to see how it is coming along.


 
These checkpoints allow the employee to set micro-goals for themselves while empowering them to find their own solutions. This structure keeps employees on track, keeps you in the know, and also shows that you trust them to complete the project on time.

Prudy Gourguechon, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and business advisor says:

Trust is a matter of finding the right balance.

 
She continues, “It is essential that a leader has the capacity to trust others. She must also be alert to reality, open to the limitations of trust and the possibility that trust will be betrayed.”
 
Having trust in your employees doesn’t mean you withdraw support. It means you strike the right balance between offering support and insisting on certain directions.

Take time building trust in your employees

You can’t expect your employees to trust you overnight. It takes time for people to learn about their managers and understand that they are protected and empowered by them. Similarly, no one is asking you to become a trusting manager in just a few days, especially if you’ve been burned by employees in the past.
 
Start small with trust-building opportunities. Initiate minor projects so your team members can build trust in you and vice versa. These small tasks and opportunities can grow into larger projects and more intense client work. Within a few months, both you and your team members can take steps to better trust each other and grow your business on a strong foundation.

Read also:3 Ways Leaders Can Regain Trust

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Jessica Thiefels is the founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, a content marketing agency. She has been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, Score.org and more.
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