Executives on Leadership: How to Build Trust


Trust is the fabric that builds a successful brand. Just look at the lengths companies go to to create trust, let alone the staggering amount of money they spend to weave trust into their brand. Chrysler created an award that they tout in ads to get us to trust that their car is the safest for our families. Panera created the term “clean food” to try to get us to trust that their food is better for our bodies. And the list goes on. Move to the corporate world, and we have all heard about these posh resorts that tech giants send their employees to walk on ropes high in the air and to perform other activities to earn each other’s trust.

This grand spending of money and effort to build trust shows just how essential it is to any business or brand. If consumers don’t trust you, you might as well throw in the towel. But what about credit unions? How do we gain trust? Should we be following these practices and spending big dollars on marketing to build member trust?

Trust starts with employees

Of course, that is not to say it is time to ditch your next marketing campaign or your special name for your credit card cash back program. But it should remind you that now is a good time to return to the basics by first building trust with your employees. People that trust each other build better teams and accomplish more together. If you build trust among your credit union employees, you will go far to build trust with the members they serve.

However, trust does not grow organically. It must be cultivated and maintained. People trust more if they feel that their own opinion matters. Begin the work by making sure that your employees feel that they are valued for what they uniquely bring to the table. The next time you ask for feedback on a change at your organization, really listen to what each employee has to say. Encourage your employees to actively listen to each voice that is speaking in the room.

Make sure you are not just talking about people trusting each other, but that you are also creating opportunities for people to build that trust. One way to build this trust and collaboration is by getting your employees working together on a common objective or goal. Having a goal is the “starting point” in building strong teams. This could be an after-hours event like volunteering in the community, but it can also be as simple as having employees work with each other on a project at work. You do not have to rework your organization to find ways for employees to build trust with each other.

Bob Frizzle, Chief Financial Officer notes, “A leader has to take the time to communicate with their team, and make their team feel included in whatever the process is.” Everyone understands that their solution or opinion may not be selected, but make sure they have a voice in the selection. You will find that just by letting your employees voice their opinion and be heard (and I mean really heard) will go a long way to them accepting the final decisions, even if what is decided is not their first choice.

Whenever you place people in teams, always communicate how important it is to listen to each other and respect the differences in the room. Be very direct about it. People like to know what is expected. Do not put people together in groups and just expect that magically people will get along with no conflict. Of course, conflict can arise when people work together. Plan for that and deal with it quickly and effectively. Also, understand that everyone does not trust as easily as everyone else.

Simply put, work on establishing more trust in your organization because it is the building block to everything that follows. Use interactions with every employee as an opportunity to listen to what they have to say. Trust your employees and give them the opportunity to trust each other, and it will go a long way to the way they serve your members.

Keep finding ways to improve

At this point in the article, you might be feeling that this is a tall order, or you may be congratulating yourself for a job well done. In either case, you know you have more to do.

Before you stop reading, however, remember that an environment of trust begins at the individual level with individuals trusting each other. As a leader, begin by establishing more trust one-on-one with your employees. And this does not always have to be on critical decisions. Talk to your employees about your garden and how to keep grass out of it. If you have to turn down a request, share the struggle you had approving the same request for someone else. Ask them their opinion on how they might handle it. The important part is that you are establishing trust by having and showing you value their unique perspective.

Remember that your most important job as a leader at a credit union is to build trust within your organization. From it great teams are built, and great teams provide great service to your members. But, while this article speaks to the bigger job of creating trust in your credit union, the first step begins with you.

As CU*Answers CEO Randy Karnes told his rising executives, “Trust is contagious one person at a time.”


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