This episode explores the importance of building trust as a business owner. It also offers some advice on how to build trust within teams and how you can work towards building a more trusting working environment.
Hello, I’m Maureen O’Callaghan, founder of Beyond Money, a business that aims to change the way people do business by teaching them the art of doing business beyond money.
In this series of podcasts, I’m going to cover some key themes that will help business owners thrive in work and in life, do some good, and discover that their purpose goes way beyond money.
On today’s episode, I’d like to talk about building trust.
Personally, I think business owners need to make building trust a priority, particularly trust in themselves and their decision-making, and trust with, and within, their team.
Trust within the team works in a lot of different ways, and when people trust each other, the team performs better as a whole.
Here are a few examples that immediately come to mind.
The first is business owners who trust their teams will be able to effectively and efficiently delegate tasks. They know they can trust employees to complete the tasks assigned to them and they won’t need to constantly look over their shoulder.
This frees business owners up to focus on more important tasks as well as empowering their team.
Secondly, if your employees trust you, they are more likely to want to grow and develop within the business. They’ll be comfortable seeking your guidance and feedback and are more likely to be open and honest with you about what’s working and what isn’t. This can only serve to make them better at what they do, and it leads to improvements in the business overall.
Thirdly, never underestimate how much stronger a trusting working environment can make teams. If there’s a culture of trust, team members are more likely to get along and work together for the good of the business. Strong teams also fare much better in the face of challenges.
I think about the businesses I’ve worked in, the trusting environments versus the workplaces where there wasn’t much trust to speak of in the team. The difference was like night and day.
If you’ve worked in a business where there was a lack of trust, you’ll know the negative impacts it can have.
Feeling like you have to watch your back all the time, which really stifles innovation and creativity.
Not having influence on team members and the way they work.
Not being able to build and maintain positive working relationships.
Potential damage to the reputation of your business, as teams that lack trust aren’t well performing or harmonious teams.
I’m sure you could add many more negative side effects to this list.
To avoid a team culture where trust is lacking, the first thing you should do as a business owner is allow your team members to get to know you and vice versa.
Learning more about each other is an important part of building a positive workplace culture because it helps you understand each other, play to each other’s strengths, and build good working relationships.
The best way to do this is spend time with people both as a team and individually. Allow them to get to you both as a business owner and as a human being.
Ways you can do this include having your breaks or lunch with team members, having formal and informal catch-up meetings, and organising social gatherings like after work drinks or a team barbecue. Remote teams can still do this too, with online team games or simple coffee catch-ups.
The next thing I think really helps build trust is being open about the challenges you are facing. It’s crucial to do what you say you are going to do, but it’s also important to be upfront about what you cannot, or are not, prepared to do.
You also have to be accountable and take the necessary steps to put things right when they go wrong.
When I worked for a large aid agency, I took on a department that had a deserved reputation for failing to deliver. I met with the team of staff and volunteers and asked them to tell me what they wanted or needed from me in order to perform well.
I told them which of their demands I could meet and those I couldn’t and the reasons why. I then told them what I wanted or needed from them in order to perform well in my role as head of the department. Based on this, I developed a working agreement that was used to refer back to if things started to go awry.
I don’t believe in autocratic leadership. I value working with people to achieve my goals, and so I’ve developed a participative leadership style.
I am clear about what I want to achieve but I am less concerned about how this is done – I leave this to the team and individual team members.
When I think about the main ways I have inspired trust, a few things come to mind.
I’ve always been reliable.
I’ve been open and transparent in the way I work.
I’ve always worked within my capabilities, and very importantly, I’ve always taken ownership of my actions and decisions as a business owner, even if they have been made with or by other people in the team.
Probably the best example I can give of that last point was when I was newly appointed as the head of a department. I applied for government funding only to be told that because the organisation I was now working for had failed to deliver in the past, they were not prepared to give us a grant.
I asked for a meeting with the funding provider and provided details of how I had successfully delivered outcomes in the past. I presented a plan to show how the department would deliver the backlog of outputs and proposed that if I delivered according to plan over the following 6 months, they reconsider their decision. They agreed.
The team worked to ensure we delivered and as a result, we secured one of the biggest grants that enabled us to deliver a new service. This was personally satisfying as over the following 3 years we completed all of the outstanding work, and set up a new service for young people that was recognised internationally. Ofsted said I demonstrated “strong strategic leadership”.
Building trust, building a strong team, and achieving success is all about talking the talk and walking the walk.
For me, that means demonstrating:
Integrity – being honest in everything I say and do in business.
Power – recognising and using what power I have as a business owner without abusing the rights of others.
Achievement and Benevolence– always wanting to achieve more for those who are less fortunate and directing the business’s activities towards this.
Self-enhancement – being open to learning from life but also embarking on formal learning such as my PhD and applying this to how I run the business.
Openness to change – through mindfulness, I have learned the importance of letting go of those things (activities and people) that are no longer working for me and the business.
Another thing I would add to this list is being present and visible.
How present are you as a business owner? Do you know your employees? Do you listen to them and show that you value them?
Even if you feel like you fall short in these areas, you can be more present and visible by:
Fully engaging in conversations and not doing other tasks at the same time.
Listening in order to understand the other person – not to give an opinion
Getting to know the person – not just the employee.
Sadly, I cannot say that any organisations I have worked for did this very well. I am wondering if this was because I have worked mainly in the charity sector.
Over the years, I have increasingly worked with people who were employed on contracts not as employees.
Because I wanted to develop and maintain a long-term relationship with them, I have made an effort to ensure they felt valued and supported.
I work in a collaborative way, always asking for their suggestions, I deliver what they need me to do on time, and they do not have to wait for me to pay them, I will give credit where it is due, I provide feedback that is constructive …and respectful. I hope all the people who work for me would say they feel valued.
Would your employees say the same?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and you’re inspired to look at trust in your team and how you can work towards building a most trusting working environment.
Tune in for the next episode of the Beyond Money podcast which will be looking at communication and why effective communication is such an important cog in your business wheel.
See you next time!