How to Build Trust in a Small Business

As an owner, leader, or manager of a small business, your ability to build and sustain trust in the business is crucial. It's not always easy but a mindful leader will always have it uppermost in mind.


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    Know your employees. This means knowing not only what they are good at and capable of; it is also about knowing their limitations and weaknesses. Understanding your employees is vital to ensuring that you provide them with work that they're competent in doing, and that will encourage them to excel.
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    Be realistic about your employees' weaknesses. If you try to make employees perform at top level all the time in an area where they are not at their strongest, you will eventually wear them out. They will grow to resent your insistence that they continue performing well in something they're not comfortable doing and potentially they will undermine the role and the expected results. This doesn't mean that you can't expect occasional endeavors outside of their comfort zone – in fact, that is an important lesson on broadening their skills and understanding – but it does mean that their principal role should not involve a heavy reliance on their weaker skills.
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    Work with your employees' strengths and trust them. Rather than pushing your employees in areas they are not good at, rely most on their strengths and then trust that they will perform to a high standard when doing what they're good at. You hired them to be good at certain things, so expect that they will be. Most employees will live up to that trust placed in them.
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    Give praise freely and openly. Be sure to acknowledge work well done and innovative solutions. Take the time to regularly update yourself on your employee's efforts. And whole you're at it, discuss their personal lives and aspirations as well. Trust is built on knowing the whole of a person, not just the facet presented at work. The better that you know your employees, the more you can understand their motivations and how to tap into those more ably.
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    Use your internal radar. Be honest with yourself when you feel a lack of trust in an employee and note the reasons for this feeling. Everyone has the skill to judge truth-telling or otherwise. You know when you have confidence in someone and when you don't; this indicator helps you to know when you can trust and when you should be wary and make alternative arrangements to try to build trust.
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    Be accountable yourself. Employees look to the person in charge. Even those who have good leadership skills themselves will look to a superior motivator. If you are not accountable for your actions, it is very hard to ask employees to feel that they should be. Set the tone for your business by being what you expect of others; trustworthy, accountable, responsible.
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    Take nothing for granted. Don't take people, systems, past procedures, or future outcomes as a given. Things change constantly and it is important to be ready to move with the changes. Keep employees advised of changing circumstances; when things change dramatically, there is a great shift in trust and employees sense it even if they're not being told all the facts. Avoid fertilizing the rumor mill by keeping your employees in the loop about upcoming changes and how the business will react. Never assume that employees will understand without being enlightened by you; nothing undermines trust more than making such assumptions.
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    Provide space. Everyone needs space at one time or another and trust is about allowing that space. Don't hover over an employee giving constant directions. If you employed someone that needy in a small business, it's time to question your own hiring decisions! Instead, provide that space, trust that the person will use it wisely and use general checks and balances to ensure that things are coming along as they should be.

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Categories: Business