leadership

Trust takes time

Engel Schmidl /

I have teenagers – their friends are beginning to get part-time jobs. I am fascinated to watch them learn and discover the world of work. The experience that they have with these businesses may well determine what “work” looks like for them.

Trust is paramount in every employment relationship – without it, it is really difficult to achieve great things.

So imagine a young person on his first work experience job and, for his five days of work, he has been told that he will receive $20 per day. He is happy with this because it covers the cost of his bus ride and lunch.

At the end of the week no one mentions it and he leaves without his $100, feels unable to say something to someone, and is quite hurt that they said one thing and did another. To a 15-year-old, $100 is a lot of money. What is his impression of work so far?

American author and organisation expert Simon Sinek told us at his presentation this week that the biggest abusers of trust are organisations (and large organisations the worst).

“Trust is a feeling, it is a human experience,” Sinek said.

Our instincts tell us when things are not right. So much of business is now conducted ‘online’. The internet is an amazing tool to connect people around the planet (and locally), to spread the word quickly and also to massively increase the speed of transactions.

But it is not good at building relationships. And an employment relationship is one of trust. Negotiations, for instance, are emotional activities and, as such, are better done face-to-face. Let’s not confuse technology for a relationship builder. Email is ideally used to confirm the facts rather than as a vehicle for emotional thoughts.

Trust takes time – as do all relationships. It is something that is given not earned. I said recently to all RedBallooners: “You have my trust; it is not something you need to earn, it is implicit.”

That is, I trust my choices in those leaders around me: I trust those leaders to fulfil, live and honour our values, and that everyday they will encourage and develop those around them. First of all you have to trust yourself and your choices. There is no power in blame.

As employers though, our role is to lead by example. I was saddened that one of my children’s friends – who had been so excited when they got an interview and then two ‘trial shifts’ at the local store – was not only not paid for their time but the employer did not even give them feedback about their work. They simply never called with another shift.

What is that young person’s experience of work? How easy it is to create a ‘them and us’ attitude. At $12.50 per hour for the sake of a total of $50 this young person would have respected and perhaps even trusted the employer. Now some other employer at some other stage is going to have to rebuild that person’s trust in authority.

Trust is the very premise of all relationships – and the first employment relationship is critical. Leaders, please give your people a reason to trust.

Naomi Simson is considered to be one of Australia’s Best Bosses. An employee engagement advocate, she practises what she preaches in her own business. RedBalloon was named as one of only six Hewitt Best Employers in Australia and New Zealand for 2009 and awarded an engagement scorecard of over 90% two years in a row – the average in Australian businesses is 55%. BRW also nominated RedBalloon in its list of top 10 Best Places to Work in Australia, behind the likes of Google.

One of Australia’s outstanding female entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker inspiring people on employer branding, engagement and reward and recognition. A blogger and a published author, she has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au.

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