How to Build Trust and Loyalty as a Leader

Remember the old saying, “People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.”? 

It’s similar when the people in charge are at fault. 

Highly motivated and enthusiastic people, or people who want to make a change, give up because they don’t feel their leadership sees the future in the best possible manner. That leadership does not take care of their interests or that leadership is not aligned with whatever the company promises. 

About 79% of people would quit and seek new jobs because of bad leadership.

In order to solve this problem, you want to make sure you’re representing the best leadership style possible. There are different ways to build an organization. And in many of them, the leadership isn’t actively involved in the process. 

If you want to build a strong culture or a company of people who are following you and are also committed to the cause, then you need to step up as a leader. 

Percentage of people who left their jobs

Now, 78% of business leaders see the value of focusing on engaging with their employees. Finding ways to engage with your staff can bring about a stable work environment. You can organize quick staff meetings, team-building activities, or one-on-one talks. 

But what it really boils down to in every organization is that trust is imperative. A global research by The Workforce Institute at UKG even calls trust “the foundational operative of 2021”.

According to this research, 63% of employees, and even business leaders, believe that trust in the workplace must be earned.

When trust is constantly nurtured among your people, there is loyalty and the organization can focus on the following initiatives:

  • Refining processes
  • Driving performance
  • Pursuing innovations
  • Promoting meaningful connections

Indeed, a great leader inspires trust and loyalty. 

Here are some steps that can help you build trust and loyalty.

Tips to Build Trust and Loyalty

Let’s discuss these tips further.

1. Start With Hiring

In an article that I published recently, I enumerated 10 hiring paradigms to consider in 2021 and these are the following:

Hiring Paradigms

Choosing attitude over skills tops the list because hiring the best talent based on attitude is the first step to establishing great leadership.

If you work with people who are not aligned with your goals or your vision, and people who don’t really see things the same way as you do and don’t really buy into your vision in the first place, you won’t really go far. 

So with that in mind, start with hiring. Align your mission and your vision. Design some traits that you need people to have in order to successfully work with you. 

2. Build Custom Career Plans 

The problem with enterprise organizations and large corporations is that they have a specific hierarchy.  Once you start on a certain level, you need to go through the same process over and over again. 

For example, if you’re at Support Level 1 Engineer, you have to go to level 2, then level 3, level 4, and so on. But what if you have great soft skills? What if you can probably switch to sales? Or maybe management? Or maybe you have great organizational skills and you’re more suitable for operations? 

Investing in the career development plan of your employees can go a long way—even beyond cultivating their loyalty towards you and the company. The impact of a clear and guided career path can result in a higher retention rate and decreased turnover.

With these in mind, you need to understand your staff members in order to build loyalty as a leader. You need to understand where they’re headed, their strengths, and their weaknesses. And based on these aspects, you may be able to retain them and even help them accomplish a bright future in a different role.

Let’s take a look at the two perspectives to consider when it comes to career development according to MaRS Startup Toolkit.

Career Planning

To meet both the needs of the business and the employees, MaRS suggests including the following topics in career planning discussions:

  • Current job
  • Gaps
  • Future aspirations
  • Career plan
    • Areas of development
    • Development goals
    • Action steps
    • Expected completion date
    • Obstacles and solutions
    • Evaluation criteria

3. Peer up Frequently

The glass offices where everyone sees the founder are pretty common in the movies, but not necessarily applicable in practice. Of course, you need to do one-on-ones with team members and some of those conversations may be unpleasant. So you definitely want to have them behind closed doors. 

You may have client meetings and your clients are not going to be thrilled with everyone in the office staring at them. But in any case, peering up with your staff is important

If you can, spend most of the time in a room with other peers around you. Or, change rooms frequently and work closely with different departments at least several times a month. Make sure you peer up frequently with your colleagues and bond with them so they know that they can trust you and they see that you’re actually doing the work and not just sitting and playing Sudoku in your office. 

After all, people who can trust their leaders are more motivated. The high manager trustworthiness generates improved performance within the team benefiting both the employees and the company.

Manager trustworthiness

4. Share Quarterly Plans

Even if you have your mission and vision aligned and publicized, that doesn’t mean that the business is actually running in that direction. 

Especially in stressful times with the recession or slow seasons, share your quarterly plans. Tell your team members what you’re working on and what you’re planning to do. Share with them what the future goals are. 

Are you hiring new people? Are you realigning resources from one department to another? Are you going to slow down on a specific product for a short period of time, just so that you can book more resources? Or, are you going to double down on a specific project because it’s important for business? 

Be transparent with your team. This is going to help them be calm that nothing critical is going to happen and no office buzz or office drama is going to creep in and prevent you from retaining top talent. 

5. Talk About the Elephant in the Room

Speaking of office drama, there will always be different types of rumors: that you may be losing clients, the business may be failing, or there may be some other issues on top or anything along those lines. Even if part of that is right, make sure you talk about the elephant in the room frequently

If you’re losing clients, let your staff know that the business is impacted but revenue is strong and you’re going to push through. You can discuss how some initiatives are going to be slowed down or maybe you need to cut some perks for a couple of months, but the long-term vision is clear. 

It helps if you discuss with them the operational status of your business wherein you will be touching on the plans that you have for and with your people.

Is Your Business Safe?

Through collaboration and open communication, you will be able to cultivate a shared vision for your company.

If there is some extra work and everyone is overburdened, talk about that. Tell them that you are fully aware that some people are putting in some extra hours or feeling stressed and that you are going to do something about it — such as looking for new staff. 

In any case, don’t avoid the elephant in the room. 

6. Discuss Constraints Openly

Only 52 percent of employees believe their leaders are open and upfront with them.

Oftentimes, there are lots of ideas coming from staff members. You may hear lots of wishes and dreams from them, such as pivoting in a new industry or a new ecosystem, incorporating new technology, spending more time on R&D, or spending more time on public speaking or training. 

Discuss the constraints openly with them and tell them why they’re not possible at the time. Tell them how it’s going to impact the current resources, their colleagues, the current revenue, or maybe jeopardize certain projects or initiatives you’re working on. 

If you’re planning to accomplish some of that in the future, tell them it is on the long-term roadmap and give them some timeframes. Tell them what needs to happen in order to get there and tell them that ideally, if they’re supportive, you’re going to work together with them towards this vision. 

7. Step in During Emergencies

Great leaders are the ones who sit in front of the army during the war and not behind them. 

Whenever there is an emergency crisis, step in and make sure your leadership is clear. In case of an angry client, a delayed delivery, a failed project, or anything, step in and handle these scenarios as gracefully as possible. Take ownership and take initiative to cover for your team, as you should. 

Showing that you care about your team and that you’re ready to take a bullet for them is going to make a real difference especially on the new team members. And even if you insist on them being as individual and self-driven as possible, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to make mistakes. After all, it’s your business. You’re the one in charge. 

Show them that you have the power to protect them, that you are going to stand and keep everything afloat if needed. Discuss with them the impact of what happens during a mistake. It’s going to be a lesson that many will learn and not want to repeat anymore. 

These scenarios are also part of the reason why a business leader is expected to be a critical thinker.

Developing critical thinking skills require a whole set of skills:

Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is highly necessary especially during a crisis for a leader to:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Adapt to changes quickly
  • Manage employee relationships
  • Solve problems and make the right decisions

8. Conduct Informal Feedback Sessions

I’m all about regular feedback sessions once or twice a year. But the more the organization grows, the trickier it is to organize them more frequently. 

With that in mind, organize informal feedback sessions every now and then, especially if you see that someone’s gloomy, doesn’t feel really well, or is not really acting as enthusiastic as they normally do. Pull them aside or bring them out for a coffee and ask them if everything is going fine. 

Oftentimes, issues regarding motivation can be unpacked by asking the right questions, including the ones below:

Employee Motivation Issues

Maybe, they just need a day or two off. Or maybe, they are stuck on a project and they need to be shifted to a different team for a while. They may also be in need of some guidance from you or a supervisor to help them push further. 

Sometimes, it may be a small change or sometimes it may be something bigger. Conducting regular informal feedback sessions is going to help you retain talent before it’s too late, get depressed or unmotivated, and decide to give up without even warning you. 

9. Make Them a Part of the Process

The business is contingent on everyone working in the same direction. Every person you hire is expected to deliver upon a certain job description. 

Making them a part of the process doesn’t mean that there are a lot of fine details or components within the vision that they may help you with. Those who don’t seem aligned with your goals or those who seem to doubt them may definitely use some pep-talk if you’re open enough to be transparent and showcase how they can help in the process. 

Transparency in leadership builds trust and results in:

  • more involved employees
  • proper expectations
  • better employee performance
  • reduced communication overhead

For instance, if your managers don’t understand KPIs properly, show them what the KPIs are and show them how to work towards them. Discuss what happens whenever they don’t work upon the KPIs and what happens if they do. 

The same goes for your lower-level team members. Encourage them to work as an entity that must deliver and tell them what happens if they don’t. Show them that their work makes a difference. And show them how working in the direction that you’re aiming for is going to cause less trouble for the business and more time on important initiatives—be it PR, sales initiatives, R&D, or product and strategy planning. 

Everyone needs to feel accomplished and everyone wants to see their purpose. Just clearly indicate specific use cases and scenarios and maybe even do some role-playing demonstrating what happens if they’re committed and working clearly upon the goals and how the different scenarios can play out. 

This can be a really powerful instrument to just bring everyone on the same page because whatever is obvious to you is not necessarily visible to others. 

10. Acknowledge Wins and Contributions

Make sure you give props where props are in order and do it more frequently. 

People like to be rewarded and appreciated. So, do it more often. Rewards do not always have to be monetary. Here are reward ideas by Jeff Haden.

Employee Rewards Ideas

Whatever you do, try to take a moment and try to send some best regards their way. 

Talk frequently to your managers and ask them about small wins. Ask them about accomplishments from new team members and about anything where anyone went over their way. In any case, people want to see that the extra attention and extra effort are recognized. 

There are a lot of different steps a leader needs to take to build loyalty and trust among their employees. But starting with the foundations is important. 

Building a strong foundation is going to build more trust between you and your staff. It will also allow you to gather and collect more feedback from your team members

And based on that feedback, you can improve even further.

Your thoughts?