“Trust has to be your highest value in your company, and if it’s not, something bad is going to happen to you,” Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO, said at the World Economic Forum in 2018. Often, the focus in the business world is on building trust in the eyes of the customer, alongside other key stakeholders such as partners, suppliers and investors.
But what I believe has often been neglected when it comes to trust is an organization’s most important asset: its people. Below are three strategies that can help you build trust within your company and drive a successful business.
Provide truly flexible work.
Flexible working means anywhere, anytime. I’ve always been a fan of flexible working and believing in your team to get the job done, no matter where in the world they are based. For many business leaders, the Covid-19 pandemic showed just how productive their company can be without having everybody in the office.
The choice many companies now face is whether to continue with a flexible approach to working or call people back to the office. Airbnb, for example, has gone big on its “Work From Anywhere” plan, while a number of large financial institutions are insisting people return to the office.
I think the answer is a no-brainer—so much so that my company announced its own flexible working policy in July of 2021. For me, the overarching philosophy is that work is something you do, not somewhere you go. We’ve seen that this approach has helped my team boost productivity, made people feel valued, improved mental health in some instances and allowed us to recruit from a more diverse talent pool.
But, for me, working where you want doesn’t quite go far enough. To be truly flexible, people shouldn’t be restricted by certain shift patterns, when at all possible. If you truly trust your team, they must be able to work when they want, too.
In a global business world that spans multiple time zones, the typical 9 to 5 doesn’t make business sense and can make it difficult for people to find a proper work-life balance. In a 9-to-5 working world, how many times have people had to miss gym classes or rearrange dentist appointments? Or how many times have working parents felt guilty for not being able to pick their child up from school because they hadn’t finished their prescribed working hours?
By empowering people to flex their hours of work, they can find the right balance that works for them. Your team can focus on meeting objectives rather than counting down hours. They also have the opportunity to manage and enjoy their own personal time, which in my experience makes a generally happier and more productive team.
Trust the experts.
We all know it’s essential to hire the very best people for a role. You’re recruiting people as experts, so as a business leader, I think it’s also essential to trust people to do what they do best. And that means more than providing a flexible workplace.
By providing the right tools and culture to help people thrive, businesses can grow from strength to strength. People need the freedom to share their insights and expertise and not feel as though they are being dictated. An open, transparent culture in the workplace only creates further trust, helps people feel more comfortable and engaged and helps them deliver their very best work.
Lead from the middle.
So, I’ve found building your company around trust as the key value can lead to a happier team, greater productivity and help drive business growth. But trust is a two-way street. Your colleagues must trust you as a leader in order to be effective. For me, this is all about being transparent and avoiding commanding your colleagues.
Rather than being alone at the top of an organization, I prefer to see myself as part of the team. Essentially, this means leading from the middle. This is possible through open and authentic leadership. Senior leaders must be prepared to communicate with colleagues at all levels of the company—consistently. Discussions around strategy, future plans and challenges must be open, and you must be prepared to answer difficult questions from your team.
By putting trust front and center in everything you do, your business will be well placed to overcome obstacles as a team—whether that’s economic challenges, skills shortages or even pandemics. And, as the business world becomes increasingly more competitive, trust has never been so important.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?