The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you build trust with your employees?” is by Christopher W. Cabrera, founder and CEO of Xactly.
To get to the heart of how I establish trust in my organization, you’re going to need a little background on where some of my business wisdom comes from. My father moved to the U.S. from Colombia when he was just 21 years old. He did not speak English and had little money to his name. What he did have was a strong work ethic and an unflappable spirit that led him to launch and run several successful businesses throughout his lifetime. Having the privilege to work alongside him from a very young age taught me numerous invaluable management lessons.
He treated his employees like family. In fact, one of my fondest childhood memories was going with my dad to deliver turkeys to all of his employees during the holidays. He gave them space to do their job, had difficult conversations when necessary, and always gave credit where credit was due.
While I learned endless lessons from my father about management, I learned even more watching him raise five children. One of his skills I admired most was that in the heat of any disagreement – and there were quite a few – he had an uncanny ability to separate the B.S. from reality. We trusted that he would listen without any agenda and fairly resolve the situation. More importantly, he set the precedent that tantrum-like behavior would not only be ignored, it would not be tolerated. This was one of the biggest lessons I took with me when I started my own company, Xactly, in 2005
Drama and whining can be one of the deepest-rooted evils in any organization. For starters, it’s contagious. It turns small, fixable issues into huge, seemingly insurmountable problems. It also clouds the truth. And when bad decisions are made based on the drama, it obliterates trust. Employees must know that good leaders will rise above the noise to look at problems objectively and make decisions based on fact. Part of how I do exactly that, and establish and maintain trust within my team, is by following these principles:
Especially in Silicon Valley, we are often caught up in the ‘perks’ we need to give employees — pool tables, sushi lunches, etc. But in the end, it’s amazing to see how far the good old-fashioned fundamentals go. Small gestures such as personally acknowledging someone going through a hard time or saying ‘thank you’ for a job well done can really make a difference in how employees feel about our workplace — and me as a leader. No matter how busy I get, I always make time to walk the halls and speak to the team to get a pulse for the mood and energy of the business.
Ground decisions in company values
It’s my personal belief that at the heart of all great companies is a thriving culture — one that was developed through a shared mission and sense of purpose. As such, the first things any new employee at Xactly must learn are our four core values: customer focus, accountability, respect and excellence (C.A.R.E.). These values are the DNA of our business and the foundation for how I resolve situations and make decisions. When considering a new idea or even resolving a tense situation, I ask my employees (and myself): does this reflect or support our core values and mission? If not, we move on.
Stand for something bigger
Shortly after founding Xactly, we created our philanthropic foundation, XactlyOne. As part of that effort, we provide our software as well as employee time to help non-profit organizations in the communities where we live and work. We participate in everything from backpack drives to building housing for families in need. The energy working side by side in these endeavors has created within our team is truly astounding, and well worth the investment when it comes to building loyalty, camaraderie and trust.
Create room to fail
Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” You can rarely read a leadership article today that doesn’t talk about the need for ‘digital disruption’ and innovation. Yet, all too often, companies don’t create a culture that really empowers people to take the healthy risks needed to bring about that kind of change. Speaking from personal experience, I was once fired for speaking my mind and challenging the status quo at one of my previous employers. Creating trust means employees know they have a voice and will be championed in making their big ideas a reality, and supported even if those ideas don’t come to fruition.
Give frequent feedback
Not addressing feedback and issues quickly leads to that inevitable eruption down the road. Employees must trust that you are giving them real-time feedback so they can improve, rather than sitting on a ticking time bomb of potential backlash.
Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you build trust with your employees?
Why employers need to stop policing social media by Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite.
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Proof you’re not making business decisions quick enough by Todd McKinnon, CEO and co-founder of Okta.
Managers, here’s why honest feedback matters at work by Rich Cavallaro, president and CEO of Skanska USA.
How a boombox helped this CEO build trust with his employees by Kyle Wong, CEO of Pixlee.
Want your employees to work harder? Eliminate your officesby Lars Albright, co-founder and CEO of SessionM.
How this CEO regained trust with his employees by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.
This is the best way to build trust with your employees by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.
The real reason your employees quit by Robert Hohman, CEO of Glassdoor.