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What it takes to thrive in Silicon Valley’s startup world

August 27, 2015, 1:38 PM UTC
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Photograph by Image Source — Getty Images

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 Amy Errett, CEO and co-founder of Madison Reed.

The most successful companies all have one thing in common: Their managers’ and employees’ goals are aligned. That’s why trust and communication in the workplace are so important. But because the world teaches us that trust is something to be earned — not given — it doesn’t always come naturally. Most companies subscribe to that philosophy, and it’s not uncommon for employees to come into workplaces with the same belief.

Building trust with your employees is well worth the effort. It allows your employees to succeed and reach beyond their goals. On the flip side, lack of trust in any workplace leads to poor morale and high turnover. Silicon Valley, for example, has developed a reputation of having a high-stress environment, so employees won’t be able to succeed or create products of the future without trusting their managers.


My experience in venture capital — and now in consumer goods — has taught me that the best way to build trust with employees is to be compassionate and empathetic toward them. I believe you should treat your team the way you want to be treated. A compassionate approach to managing your employees allows you to be beautifully open and honest. You’ll be able to understand their goals, and they can understand yours. Empathy in the workplace lays the groundwork for long-term, productive relationships.

See also: What CEOs still get wrong about running a business

I strive to treat our employees with the same respect and care we treat our customers. When you give employees honest and regular feedback, you help them grow professionally and personally. I make a point to call out employee success stories for recognition. Little steps like these demonstrate the dedication and investment you have in your employees and what they do. They’ll be empowered to work even harder when they see your investment in them, so it’s a win-win situation.

Although it makes relationships easier, being compassionate doesn’t mean you can’t hold employees accountable. When your employees make mistakes, focus on the long-term lesson rather than the short-term consequences. This approach will reinforce your investment in your employees and help build trust.

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The best — and most productive — teams are those with trust between employees and managers. I began my career managing a significant number of people who were much older than I was. I learned very quickly that getting to know people on a human level is the best way to build real relationships with team members. Investing in your employees is a strategy that pays dividends in the long term. Compassion and empathy in the workplace will discourage employees from leaving and improve morale, both of which are goals we can all get behind.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you build trust with your employees?

The secret perk that helps build trust with employees by Sarah Kauss, CEO and founder of S’well.

Why you should never cover up your mistakes at work by Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network.

Why employers need to stop policing social media by Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite.

You can’t be a great leader without doing this by Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit.

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.