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 Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit.
In today’s world, the pace of change has never been faster. Organizations must learn to move “at the speed of life” or risk becoming yesterday’s footnote. Building trust with employees is critical in successfully managing that change. Here are three key ways I believe leaders can help earn this trust:
Lead with questions, not answers
The best leaders don’t need to have all the answers; they need to surround themselves with great people and ask the right questions. It’s not what you know, it’s the questions you ask that will help you become a more effective and inspiring leader. During times of change, a good rule of thumb is to engage employees early and often. Change is a team sport, and it’s important to bring people along for the journey.
I’ve seen too many leaders hunker down in conference rooms, attempting to devise the perfect change journey, while their employees fill the communication void with misinformation. Engage employees once you have questions about the need for change, versus waiting until you have the answers. Not only will their input lead to a more informed outcome, but they’ll own the outcome with you.
Build capability through principles
Leaders must reveal ‘why’ a decision has been made, and not just ‘what’ the ultimate decision was. This practice develops explicit principles or criteria that you can apply in future decisions. These principles can also provide teams with a compass to navigate uncertainty and make their own decisions when you’re not available. This will build on individual strengths and trust throughout the organization.
Lead from the front
There isn’t a more important time to be a highly visible and transparent leader than during times of change. Employees will seek to know what won’t change, in addition to what will change. As a leader, you are uniquely qualified to provide this context. Furthermore, hold yourself accountable for the change process and be willing to admit when things aren’t going as expected. Your employees will most likely sense this anyway, but your admission will build confidence that you are on top of the situation. And finally, monitor progress and increase your frequency of communication. A personal rule of thumb I use during times of change is to communicate with employees 3x more often.
Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you build trust with your employees?
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How this CEO regained trust with his employees by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.
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The real reason your employees quit by Robert Hohman, CEO of Glassdoor.