Building Trust

Do you know what your employees think of you?

If you haven’t asked anyone or spent any time with your team lately, then you probably don’t.

Some leaders will say that they don’t care about being liked, but I can tell you from personal experience that making an effort to win over your employees, earn their trust, and make them happy can make a huge difference in your company.

I didn’t start out with much. I don’t have a fancy education or a master’s degree. In fact, I didn’t get my honorary high school diploma until I was 54! Yet our company is successful, and our employees are happy. Without interacting with people and working to earn their trust, I would never have made it this far.

Even with more than 6,400 employees spread across the globe, connecting with them remains one of my highest priorities. Let me tell you why.

If Employees Are Happy, You’ll See Results

The relationship between you and your people — and their perception of that relationship — makes a huge difference in their productivity and the overall quality of their work. Studies show that happier employees are more productive, and people who feel they’re working for (or as I say, “with”) a good company work harder and stick around.

Building trust and respect makes a huge impact. Fortunately, a little bit of effort can go a long way. Here are a few things that have helped me create trust and respect within our company:

1. Lead from behind.

This means putting your staff’s interests above your own needs and financial interests. Google recently responded to a little girl’s request to give her dad a day off for his birthday with an official letter from the company and an entire week of vacation for the father. Showing that kind of care has an immeasurable impact.

2. Set an example.

If you set the bar high for yourself, people in your company will follow suit. I always try to be the first one to the office in the morning and the last to leave at night. I want the great people I work with to know that I’m willing to work hard, just like I know they work hard every single day of the year.

3. Get face time with employees.

We host town hall meetings, which have been very successful. For these gatherings, I visit one office at a time to give our family members at each location a chance to say hello, ask me questions, and learn about the current state of the company. Most importantly, these town hall meetings present a wonderful opportunity for people to share their personal stories with me and their colleagues.

4. Do what you say you’ll do.

If you say you’ll do something, do it! It’s that simple. Yet it’s surprising how many people don’t do the things they said they would. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if you’re short on time or you don’t want to do something. People will learn to respect you as someone who keeps his word.

5. Build an accountability team.

If you’re serious about doing what you say you’ll do, create a team to hold you accountable. You set the standard for integrity at your company. If you take it seriously, others will, too.

6. Limit bureaucracy.

We try to limit how many tiers of management we have at our company because it keeps our organization streamlined and minimizes miscommunication. We also organize our leadership by personalities instead of logistics. For example, our regional manager who oversees some Midwestern states also manages some Southern states because he works well with the managers and personalities there. Limited bureaucracy gives people quick and easy access to leadership, which shows them that the company cares.

7. Don’t forget the little things.

Saying “thank you,” sending birthday cards, or remembering details about people’s lives can go such a long way. Although an email or a phone call can be meaningful, real connection requires you to spend time with people — both outside of work and alongside them at their job.

While you can’t force everyone to like you, you can make it clear that you do care about your employees’ well-being. If you make the commitment to view them as individuals with lives, interests, and needs — and ask your managers to do the same — I guarantee you’ll see a positive change in your company. Not only will your team be happier, but they’ll also work harder for you!

Sheldon Yellen is the CEO of BELFOR, the worldwide leader in property restoration and disaster recovery. BELFOR has more than 6,400 employees in 300 offices spanning 31 countries. Sheldon’s “rags to riches” story epitomizes the “American Dream” story of overcoming adversity and persevering in order to achieve success. Sheldon was featured on CBS’s primetime show, “Undercover Boss” and the episode received an Emmy-Award nomination for Outstanding Reality Program in 2011. His dedication to employees at every level of the company and his successful leadership style make him a highly sought-after speaker and led to him reappearing on two “Undercover Boss” reunion episodes: “Epic Bosses” and “Busted Bosses.” 

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