I have four grown children, and when they were toddlers, I always loved that moment when they could let go of my hand and begin to walk on their own. As babies they had whole and complete trust that I would be there for them to catch them if they fell. And in the presence of a trusted adult, they gained courage to take that risk on their own and let go.
Believing that trusting relationships are the most basic of human needs and the strongest foundation for caring for one another; we recognize that our teams must work in an environment of trust and kindness in order to grow, take risks, and be the very best versions of themselves.
I have been in Senior Housing since the late ninety’s. I have seen the evolution of the services, the regulatory standards, and the employees.
Today senior living companies are focusing even more on the people who work with them. Demand for talented, dedicated employees keeps growing. We are in an environment where new jobs are being created and unemployment rates are dropping.
We, like other senior housing companies, are stepping up to improve and communicate with our teams. It is not just about the wages or the benefits, but also about the culture, growth opportunities, and inspiring trust in leadership.
There are many things that we can do to establish trust:
- Being open and honest about changes that will impact the teams;
- Effectively communicating by talking to them, not at them;
- Having an open-door policy, and then following up, and being willing to pitch in to help.
- Sometimes the smallest gesture of kindness goes a long way.
Below are some tips to develop trusting relationships that I have learned over the years. These tips have effectively established trust with those I have been honored to serve – and helped me evolve and grow into a better person too.
- Offer Your Own Trust First. As Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” If you want your employees to trust you, try trusting them first. Give them a task, even an easy one, and let them complete it on their own. This simple gesture will go a very long way. If your employees believe you will have their back, they will run through walls for you.
- Don’t Have All Of The Answers, Even If You Do. Who do you trust? Typically, it’s someone who allows you to be you and who encourages you to continuously grow, learn — usually by making mistakes — and develop. So be inquisitive and ask lots and lots of questions rather than supplying answers, even — especially — when you know the answer.
- Show Them You Aren’t Afraid Of Failure. Any mistake or struggle in performance will make the leader look bad, so every employee is seen as a threat. This drives selfish, bad behavior and creates an unsafe place for the team. Trust only happens in a fear-free environment. Every leader needs to work on their own fear issues so they can focus on building the team instead of their ego.
- Listen Effectively. Leaders establish trust by asking effective questions, then by actually listening to employees’ answers. Following up with action in a manner that supports employees’ ideas and concerns reinforces that you listened.
- Be Respectful. The simplest path to increased trust is respect. It’s respectful recognition of accomplishments and transparency around failure. It’s a connection between leaders and teams. It doesn’t cost anything — but each side needs to make time for it. Practicing daily respect habits like “listen and care, make eye contact, and acknowledge your flaws” will drive engagement, and ultimately performance.
- Lead With Integrity and empathy. You can demonstrate you are trustworthy as a leader by keeping your word with your employees. Say what you’ll do, and then do what you say. Show them you are leading in alignment with the values of goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun. Genuinely care about your employees. Give trust and ask for their trust in return. Be trustworthy and honorable, and communicate that you expect the same.
When people honor each other, there is a trust established that leads to synergy, interdependence, and deep respect. Both parties make decisions and choices based on what is right, what is best, what is valued most highly.
We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.
The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I.’ And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.’ They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit. This is what creates trust.
Try even one or two of these approaches. Just a bit here and there, and you may be amazed at the miraculous transformation and evolution of not only your team…but of yourself too!
About the author: Jean Garboden is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living in Eugene, Oregon Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada