Leaders: Think Your Employees Trust You? Think Again!

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In this day and age, where we trust complete strangers to drive our loved ones and us around via Uber and Lyft, it might seem like common sense to think that trust is on the rise all around. You might even believe that trust between managers and employees is heading to an all-time high as well.

However, think again. A recent Harvard Business Review reported that nearly 58% of employees trust a stranger more than their boss. While this was a shocking statistic to some, it came as no surprise to me. Why? Just read my blogs over the past year, and you’ll see a definite trend: many leaders know what needs to be done when managing a team, but they do not know how to do it. 

 Author Marshall Goldsmith said it best: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”

What that says to me is that many leaders got promoted because they were good at doing, providing, selling, or servicing. Their skills got them there, to the management level.

But, once promoted to the promised land of management, they face a whole new challenge that they quickly find themselves ill-prepared for: getting the job done through others, which is far easier said than done.

Now, an organization of extraordinary foresight would take the time to train its leaders, but most do not. Two main reasons that organizations do not train their leaders tend to be one of the following: a lack of time or money to conduct a supervision class or workshop.  As an experienced leadership consultant, I understand how organizations arrive at that reasoning. However, they are missing an indisputable fact that they will wind up paying for training, whether they intend to or not. The company will either spend the time and money in training their leaders, or they will pay the price for poor leadership and a lack of training with mistakes, errors, overages, shortages, resignations and even lost business, all of which can be boiled down to a lack of trust between workers and leaders.  

In my presentation, “Good Boss, Bad Boss, How to Be the Best and Learn from the Worst…” I share an experience I had with an ineffective leader in the past. We have all heard of an open-door policy, where leaders encourage employees to come into their office or workstation and talk about their problems. This sounds good in theory, but it does not always hold water.

Why? For one, no employee wants to be seen as a whiner or complainer, so it can be difficult if not downright impossible for an employee to walk into a boss’s office and levy a complaint against a coworker. But, in reality, that problem they are about to pass along to their leader has been bothering them for quite some time, and they need to get it off their chest. 

For example, I once passed along a complaint to an ineffective leader that other employees on the team were not doing their share. The leader looked at me and said, “don't have time for this. I want you to work out with the others." Now, what kind of impression do you think that made on me? I feared retribution and being labeled a troublemaker. When I eventually approached the other employees about not doing their share, one remarked, “Who died and made you the boss!” At that moment, two thoughts struck me. I was doing the boss' job, and how could I trust an "open door policy" and fear it at the same time?

I wound up leaving this company a short time later. When I look back on that experience, I realize that the company may not have had the time nor resources to train their leaders, but they paid for that lack of training in employee resignations. You see, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. No wonder why 58% of employees trust a stranger more than their leader. That’s just uncommon common sense. 

Leaders, if an employee takes the time to bring a problem to you, they are trusting you to address it. Go out and seek out the problem, take steps to fix it, and show your employees why you are a leader they should follow.