For 23 years, the Edelman Trust Barometer has measured society’s trust in business, media, government, and nongovernmental organizations globally. Over the past three years, as we’ve emerged from the global pandemic, only one of those institutions has increased its trustworthiness worldwide: Business.
In fact, according to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, the only individuals people trust more than “my CEO” are “my co-workers” and “scientists.” But note the “my” before CEO. It’s not just any CEO. In fact, CEOs as a group are generally distrusted. It’s only when it’s “my CEO” that it jumps to the top.
That level of trust doesn’t come easily and should never be taken for granted. In fact, as a CEO, I believe it’s earned daily through what you do and don’t say “yes” to, how you do or don’t show up, and every small choice you make. These, in turn, create your culture.
One of my most important roles as CEO is to foster a culture where employees feel represented, welcomed, and enjoy a sense of belonging. Trust is a natural outcome—not just in me, but in each other, the company, and our path forward as an organization.
It takes work to do this when everyone is in the office, and it requires added attention and care if you’re in a hybrid or remote model.
Here are the principles I follow to showcase strong leadership and foster best practices for building a positive, purpose-driven culture.
Transparency is currency
Transparency is one of my defining values. I encourage my employees to ask me any question, and I will always answer it. If I don’t have an answer, I’ll find it. If I can’t answer, I’ll do my best to share why. But, regardless, I will respond in some way—often in our weekly, virtual, all-company huddles.
Over my career, I’ve learned that the right level of transparency builds trust and fosters a positive workplace culture. My go-to is open and honest communication with employees and being candid when I can’t share more.
We prioritize transparency about our financials and how the business works with the goal of creating business acumen and literacy across our organization. Informed employees are engaged employees.
We share our vision, goals, and expectations, so employees have a line of site to where we’re going, can prepare for changes, and see how their work contributes to our shared success.
Like anything, transparency isn’t something to use only when things are going well. Nothing builds deeper trust than leaning into candor during hard times. Admit mistakes. Acknowledge challenges. Be human.
While this level of openness may be uncomfortable, it helps us build stronger relationships.
Celebrate each other
It’s pretty simple: People want to be appreciated. A 2022 survey by OnePoll found that not only did 65% of respondents say they would work harder if they felt their contributions were noticed by management, the same percentage said they would stay in a role with an unappreciative boss if their co-workers appreciated them.
Employee recognition is like the Sphinx Riddle of the workplace. No one has quite figured it out. Plus, it’s not just about celebrating the big wins; finding the time to celebrate the small, daily wins is essential.
Add a hybrid work model to the mix, and it gets even more challenging. Gone are the days of breakroom celebrations, and we miss out on those simple yet important watercooler opportunities to check in and say “thank you.”
Our team makes room for gratitude during our weekly, all-company, virtual huddle. Time is dedicated at the end of the huddle to shoutouts. This peer-to-peer recognition allows employees to call out their co-workers’ accomplishments.
The range of shoutouts is wide and wonderful. It’s my favorite part of the week. Some are simple: A quick thanks for fixing the coffee maker. Others are customer-focused and celebrate a co-worker for exceptional service to a member. And at least a handful capture the impact an entire team may have in making someone’s day better.
Every shoutout gets acknowledged and recognized across the company—a fan favorite for every meeting.
I recently heard a quote by Simon Sinek which resonated with me. In it, he says, “It’s important to lead with authenticity and empathy; it’s important to show that we’re human too.”
No one is perfect. Employees want their leaders to be relatable as human beings. We all have families, lives, and interests inside and outside work. It’s okay to share that. Employees want to know you, see you laugh, hear what you’re passionate about and celebrate your success like they want you to celebrate theirs. They also want you to admit when you don’t know the answers or made a mistake.
When you do this, you live through your values and mission. It all comes together in a way that can be a powerful tool to unite teams under your vision and build a bond of trust.
Subscribe today to our free E-Newsletters!SUBSCRIBE