They already know something is up
Transparency and openness are essential components of trust. Humans, all humans, have an uncanny ability to perceive and pick-up on emotions. It is fundamental to our survival and our ability to connect with others. Now, the ability to interpret those emotions can vary wildly. Based on the level of trust or perceived threat, we can interpret the same action and emotions in a completely different way.
One of the common mistakes I see leaders make is a lack of transparency and openness. This is often driven by fear in the leader. “I can’t share this kind of information because people will use it against me” or “I will lose face.” “What will people think if they know we didn’t make a profit last quarter?” Your people are constantly reading your emotional state. They already know something is up.
Another primary reason leaders are not open and transparent is because they have a false sense of needing to protect their people. Your people can handle the “it.” They are not children. They are competent, capable adults who want to make a difference. You can’t solve or address an issue unless you know it exists. Nothing builds trust like solving a problem or achieving a major goal together.
Don’t leave it to their imagination to fill in the blanks. Particularly because the default answer they come up with is usually negative. In the lack of profitability scenario above, you are trying to keep from going broke and save their jobs. You have cut expenses to the bone. Without understanding the company’s real financial situation, a likely employee response would be “they won’t spend any money because they are a bunch of tight wads and are just trying to put more money in their pockets.” At this point, the actual facts have little to with how the story is interpreted.
Your best weapon against misinformation is to get employees in the conversation. Openness and transparency are keys to building trust. Trust that changes the default from “how are they taking advantage to of us?” to “how do we solve this problem together?”
If letting your guard down sounds outside of your comfort zone, you’re not alone. I’ve coached hundreds of business leaders on how to build trust with employees. I can help you too. Send me an email and let’s set a time to talk about the problems you’re experiencing.