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What’s the most important ingredient in company culture? There are several possible answers, perhaps, but for me the most obvious one is trust. For your company to succeed, and for its culture to thrive, your employees have to trust you; and you, in turn, must have confidence in their ability to do good, purposeful work even when you’re not in the room.

Trust is arguably the most vital part of your company culture, then—yet it’s something that many leaders squander or corrode, without even realizing it. Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about.

How Leaders Squander Trust

They deprive their employees of opportunities to connect. It’s great to furnish your team with digital communication tools—but have you created a workspace in which nobody ever actually talks to their co-workers face-to-face? Those real, human connections are vital for building and sustaining trust, so make sure you allow those opportunities to flourish.

They fail to acknowledge the achievements of their team members. One way to establish trust is to make it clear that you see and appreciate good work from your employees. Don’t be vague or stingy with your praise. Affirm specific accomplishments that you witness. Do it publicly, when possible!

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They micromanage. When you turn into a micromanager, you’re sending a clear signal that you don’t trust your team members. And maybe you don’t think of yourself as a micromanager—but tell me: Do you double and triple check your employees’ work? Because that’s one of the quickest ways to show them you don’t trust them.

They hire the wrong people. Your employees entrust you to hire skilled and competent people who align with the company’s values and mission—but bad hiring policies suggest that you’re out of the loop, or simply not able to sustain that team dynamic. Be careful that bad hiring policies don’t erode trust.

They shame their employees. If public affirmation is valuable, public shaming is a big faux pas. What it says to your employees is that they’re not free to fail sometimes—and it will lead to a workplace of less creativity, less risk-taking, and less innovation.



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