As a new supervisor nearly 30 years ago and as Lockheed Martin CEO and President, building trust has always been my top priority. That’s because I’ve learned over the years that if you don’t have a bond of trust with the people who can help you succeed, business comes to a screeching halt.
For this reason, my first priority as CEO and President has been to hit the road. I’ve visited hundreds of our customers, sat across the table from our investors and analysts, and held Town Hall meetings at a dozen of our sites, reaching more than 60,000 employees.
The employee meetings are particularly important. Employees drive our success. If they don’t know you, understand where you’re trying to take the business, and trust in your leadership, you’ll have a hard time keeping them engaged. Whether you’re a CEO or a first-line manager, face-to-face communication with your team is vital to your success as a leader. With that in mind, I’d like to share the five guiding principles I follow in building trust with employees.
- Affirm Your ValuesTrust starts with values. I
take every opportunity to reiterate Lockheed Martin’s values and what
they mean to us. Our values are 1) Do what’s right, 2) Respect others,
and 3) Perform with excellence.
It’s important to communicate that the commitment to integrity, respect and excellence starts at the top – and even more important to demonstrate that commitment through decisions and actions. Show employees that you are embracing your values, and you’ll go a long way towards building trust.
- Share Your Vision and StrategyOnce you
establish the values that will guide you, the next step is to
communicate where you’re going and how you’ll get there. And it’s
important to keep your vision and strategy simple. Employees need to
understand the direction of the company and clearly see how their work
contributes to our success. When I communicate our vision and strategy
to our employees I use examples that are most relevant to their areas of
When you share your strategy for success, you acknowledge your trust in employees who determine that success. I’ve learned that when you show someone that you trust them, they work hard to show that your trust is well placed.
- Be Open, Honest and TransparentI find that one
of the most powerful tools for building trust is simply being open,
honest and transparent in all of your communications. Employees
recognize in an instant when a leader is being honest, and if you
communicate frequently, you’ll earn their trust and respect.
This is especially true when times are tough. Leaders have to fight the urge to circle the wagons during times of pressure or crisis. That’s when employees need to hear from you most. If you’re open, honest and transparent, you’ll build confidence and empower employees to stop worrying and start helping the organization overcome its challenges.
- Demonstrate the Power of a HandshakeEvery good
leader knows that it’s important to communicate with employees and that
there are several ways to do it. You can send an email, host a webcast,
or ask your leaders to relay a message. While these communications
channels have their place in a leader’s repertoire, it’s important to
remember that they don’t take the place of in-person meetings.
There is power in a handshake. There is power in a warm, in-person greeting. There is power in a smile from across the room. Personal contact builds trust. Let your employees see you as a leader who is personally engaged. Even if it’s just once a week, find a reason to substitute an e-mail or a phone call with a face-to-face meeting, knowing your time is well spent on contributing to a culture of trust.
- Offer Sincere and Genuine ThanksThere isn’t a
communication I deliver where I don’t personally thank our employees for
our success. The simple act of saying “thank you” is incredibly
powerful. My goal is to make sure every one of our 116,000 employees
knows how much I appreciate their hard work.
Thanking employees is another trust-builder, as long as it’s from the heart. It’s important to recognize people by name and explain why you’re so grateful. To paraphrase the famous quote, your employees may not remember everything you say, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. Sincere gratitude goes a long way toward building trust.
These are the principles I follow in building trust. I’m interested in your perspective. I invite you to share your strategies for building trust with your teams and coworkers.
Photo: Lockheed Martin CEO and President Marillyn Hewson meets with employees in Orlando, Fla., during her Town Hall tour earlier this year.