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4 Ways to Build Trust as the CEO

According to a 2021 study, the post-pandemic workplace isn’t just decentralized, it’s disconcerting. Employees feel alone, insecure, underappreciated, and overly scrutinized. Perhaps most troubling for CEOs is that two-thirds of respondents said they don’t report issues to their HR departments because they don’t believe anyone higher up is going to address their issues; 49% said they feared retaliation. Imagine what kind of leadership problems could be getting swept under the rug because workers don’t trust their employers to do right by them or the company as a whole.

4 Ways to Build Trust as the CEO

Here are four ways that CEOs can create a trustworthy culture that keeps everyone aligned to Making BIG Happen.

1. Lead by example.

Of all the aspects of a well-run business, culture is the one that the CEO can affect most directly — and most visibly — on a daily basis. The way you lead trickles down to every level of the company, influencing how your employees treat one another and your customers.

So, what do your employees see from the CEO?

Are you a micromanager, constantly hovering over every decision? Your c-suite, managers, and team leaders are going to treat their direct reports likewise.

Do you have a “healthy” ego, confident in what you’re good at, but unafraid to seek outside help and opinions when necessary? Or are you cocky to a fault, which will only make your leaders feel like they need to have all the answers, or at least act like it.

Are you respectful when you disagree or quick to lose your temper?

Do you treat mistakes as learning opportunities that can make your team stronger or does every error set off a five-alarm fire in your office?

Each interaction that the CEO has with another team member is powerful. Use those moments to model positive leadership and your team will feel inspired by your influence, and not threatened by it.

2. Be Transparent.

Under normal circumstances, rumblings about business difficulties can cause an office to go from tense to paranoid before lunch. But for the past two years, your employees have been watching businesses that couldn’t survive the pandemic go under. Many companies that did manage to stay above water had to cut costs — including salaries — or use mergers as a life raft. And as much as some of your employees might appreciate working remotely, they might also be feeling cut off from your day-to-day operations. In this environment, reactions to rumors might start at “paranoia” and escalate to all-out panic.

The more that potential problems reverberate in your company’s echo chamber, the bigger they start to feel. The CEO can cut through the noise with a single email, Zoom call, or company-wide meeting. If the news of the day really is bad, don’t sugarcoat it. At worst, your honesty will shrink the issue down to its true, manageable size and get your team focused on how to solve it. And if you demonstrate that you’re willing to tell the truth at a low point, your employees will take your honesty as a given going forward.

3. Hone Your EQ.

Still, no matter how transparent you are with your team, your job title is always going to place a barrier between you and everyone who works for you. To reach through that barrier and establish real trust, you need to make an extra effort to connect with your people as people.

Little things can have a BIG impact right now. Sending a handwritten birthday card or asking a remote employee about her kids shows that you’re not just interested in the work. Sharing a few weekly meals or breaks with your in-house team can create a healthy, open flow of information across all levels of the business. And seeking every available perspective as you prepare your company for its post-pandemic chapter will make your whole team feel like what they do and how they do it is important to you.

4. Be a “We,” not an “I.”

Yes, ultimately a company lives or dies by how well the CEO connects a BIG vision to rigorous execution. But if you act like your company is all about you, your successes will be short-lived. Employees will feel like they’re not getting credit for their contributions, and will start looking elsewhere for proper recognition of their talents. You might not appreciate just how valuable a team leader really was until she’s helping a competitor blow right past you.

Any experienced, successful CEO will tell you that they didn’t accomplish anything on their own. The best CEOs hire the best people, get out of their way, and then go out of their way to celebrate what everyone has accomplished together. When your best people believe that their work matters, they’re going to believe in you too. And that mutual respect, appreciation, and trust will be a cornerstone to Making BIG Happen.

About Mark Moses

Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make BIG Happen. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.

Mark Moses

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.

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