All Articles Leadership Inspiration Want to earn trust and respect? Ask these questions

Want to earn trust and respect? Ask these questions

3 min read


If you’ve ever seen the TV reality show “Undercover Boss,” you’ll know that the premise involves corporate CEOs working anonymously on the front lines to find out how their companies really work. Almost every week, they discover a key truth: Unhappy employees almost certainly guarantee unhappy customers. If you’ve ever encountered a little travel snafu, you know what I mean.

Scheduled to fly out of Chicago one recent evening, I ran into numerous difficulties including a nearly missed flight, conflicting and just plain wrong information, and rude personnel. I couldn’t find an employee who was either informed or interested. These challenges weren’t the real problem in my book. The issue was almost certainly a severe case of unhappy employees. What was the reason?

Statistics say that almost 50% of us don’t trust our leaders. Think about it. The world’s most admired companies are at the top of the heap for a reason. It’s no surprise that Fortune’s recent top 10 picks included Apple, Google and Southwest Airlines. What’s their secret?

Here are five key questions you can ask yourself to put your company at the top of the list.

  • What’s your reputation? Credibility, knowledge and expertise really do count. When it comes to your reputation, clients and customers want to know three things: One, that you know your stuff; two, that you’ve done it before and can do it again; and three, that you know your stuff.
  • Does the company clearly communicate its goals and direction? Recently, I worked with a client whose goal was to become best-in-class in its category. When we surveyed employees, the client was startled to learn that its team could not clearly articulate the company’s vision. Take the time to find out if your crew truly understands your firm’s goals. You may be surprised.
  • Does top management exhibit genuine concern for employees’ well-being? In a recent training session, I overheard two participants complaining about recent organizational changes in their company. The kicker? Their boss agreed with them (publicly) that the changes were driving the organization into the ground. Did he earn their trust and respect? Not likely. Face it: Employees will know it if you’re all talk and no walk. Now’s the time to reassess.
  • Do employees feel their work is valued? A Gallup poll says almost 50% of employees are not engaged in their work. Taking the time to make sure everyone knows the work they do is important can result in a big payoff: engaged employees and satisfied clients.
  • Do employees have clear accountability? This one starts at the top. Make sure everyone understands his or her level of accountability and responsibility. If you’re wondering exactly how important trust and respect are to your business, remember Enron. ‘Nuff said.

I admit it, I’m picky. I think good leadership comes down to this: Our employees want to work for — and our clients want to work with — leaders they like and respect. So do your homework: Choreograph it carefully. Me, I’ll be watching TV.