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 for: How do you build trust with your employees? is by Lars Albright, co-founder and CEO of SessionM.
As cofounder of a mobile loyalty platform, naturally I have some thoughts on the topic of trust. Here are a few of the most important things that come to mind:
Keep the office flat
I mean this figuratively, of course. As CEO, I strive to not only run a lean organization where every position matters, but also a flat one where nobody is several steps removed from anyone else. If I have regular access to all my employees I’m able to have a much better handle on the pulse of the company. Equally as important, if they have regular access to other company leaders and myself, it becomes clear that there is no “Ivory Tower” from which we rule the land. We all have jobs that we are accountable for.
Embrace the “snowflakes”
In the tech space, there are a lot of snowflakes — really unique individuals that march to their own drum in many ways. That’s great with us so long as the team is successful. Understanding who’s quirky and who’s disruptive, and how to handle each personality is an exercise in judgment that everyone should master. When you’re running a lean organization with real transparency, it’s easy to see when someone is not pulling his or her weight. It harms production, and more importantly, it harms morale.
Remove personal space
Our office has no offices — just a few rooms with doors for conference calls, which everybody can access. Otherwise, probably over 90% of our team is at standing desks. So basically everything is out in the open. It can get a bit loud at times, but the benefits far exceed the negatives. Seeing everyone buzzing around makes you want to have a spring in your step, too. “Cushy” is not conducive to hungry in my experience. Providing a level playing field in terms of space, offers a sense of community and trust that everyone is working hard toward the same goal.
Celebrate the shadows
Every organization has its stars — high-performing, charismatic performers that you can spot from across the room. We’ve certainly got ours and celebrate their many contributions regularly. But we also have a huge number of unsung heroes. They don’t want the spotlight. They’re not always outgoing or front and center, but those are often the people that do the best work. They don’t do it to be recognized, but take tremendous pride in their work. Sometimes I’ll coax them into the spotlight and recognize their accomplishments publicly. Other times I’ll ask them to go for a walk and thank them privately, just so they know that we know how much we appreciate all they do. In business, trust leads to loyalty. And loyalty leads to power.
You’ve got to give to get
As a CEO, if you want to gain trust you’ve got to give trust. Give your employees the benefit of the doubt before asking them to do the same for you. If we hire you, which can be a fairly rigorous process, you’re “in.” Once you’re in, it’s my job to make sure you’re successful and vice versa. We’re all in this together.
Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you build trust with your employees?
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