Bridge the Leadership Trust Gap with Employees

Most companies need to bridge a leadership trust gap.  In companies of almost any size, there is a gap of trust between leaders and employees.  It’s understandable – there’s a significant difference in levels of authority, understanding, compensation, responsibility, role and usually experience. 

Too large of a gap creates unhappy consequences, from employees feeling that leaders don’t care to a lack of trust in their leaders’ competence and commitment.

The Leadership Trust Gap and Employee Engagement

We measure employee engagement annually within nearly 5,000 organizations. While many areas and actions matter in terms of engaging and retaining top talent, our research can be broken down into ten overall categories that combine to describe employee engagement.  Of the ten major areas of engagement we survey, six have been identified as consistently producing the greatest overall impact.  And of those six, three share a theme of the employees’ view of leadership.

  1. The leaders are committed to making the organization a great place to work.
  2. I trust the leaders to set the right course.
  3. The leaders value people as their most important resource.

In organizations with a high level of engagement, leadership is dedicated to showing that employees are valued and that they care about creating a positive workplace culture.  In organizations where there is too wide of a trust a gap between employees and leaders, there is a corresponding level of employee disengagement.

What Leaders Can Do to Build Trust with Employees

Leaders and managers are in a unique position to influence the way their teams view leadership.  Because managers often work with their employees day-to-day, they can act as a bridge between employees and senior leaders to help build and strengthen trust in order to create a more engaged and high performing workplace.

4 Tips on Closing the Leadership Trust Gap

  1. Be an Effective and Honest Messenger
    Clearly, directly, and consistently communicate the company’s plan for success to your team – the organization’s vision, mission, values, strategic priorities, success metrics and progress.  Encourage questions and concerns.  Discuss the high level plans of the leadership in a way that shows each employee how what they do fits directly into the overall organization’s business strategy. 

    And, when earned, praise executive leadership for strategic decisions that make sense and candidly share and discuss concerns about areas that seem confusing, risky, or misaligned.

  2. Be Authentic and Upfront
    Most companies solicit feedback from employees.  The best leaders explicitly do something with the feedback.  Share your understanding of what feedback was acted upon, what feedback was not acted upon, and why. 

  3. Use Inclusive Language
    Don’t widen any potential leadership trust gaps by using words that set up an “us vs. them” mentality.  Some managers think that by identifying with their employees against leadership, they’ll be establishing closer ties with their team.  But the effect is to drive a wedge between employees and executives.  This serves no one.

  4. Show that YOU Care
    Managers can be the conduit of information from employees to leaders.  Use your relatively closer access to leaders as a way of sharing your team’s ideas and concerns as well as to act as their advocate when they need executive support to accomplish team goals.

The Bottom Line

Are you doing all you can to support your team members?  Managers can play a critical role in bridging the gap between the “high and the low” and, in so doing, increase employee engagement.  It’s all good.

To learn more about how to bridge the leadership trust gap, download 29 Ways to Build and Maintain Trust as a Leader

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