A Bridge of Trust

Here are a few staggering statistics from a recent report on trust in the workplace:

• Less than half of people in the workplace trust their leaders.
• 82% of those people say they need to trust their leadership to be effective at their job.
• But only 34% feel safe communicating their ideas with leadership.

How do we as leaders bridge this “trust gap” in our organizations?

When Bart Hardy was promoted to Vice President of Manufacturing at Barry-Wehmiller’s Paper Converting Machine Company in Green Bay, WI, it was a time where trust between associates and company leaders was low.

“There was a lot of tension,” Bart said. “I walked into an environment where leaders and workers were not on the same page. In any work environment, there’s often that natural tension, but this was much worse.”

On advice of one of the labor leaders, Bart scheduled one-on-one

meetings with all 300 of his team members, spread out over seven months. Union reps were in the room to observe, but the conversation would be between Bart and his teammate.

For his part, Bart asked two questions, “What are your expectations of leadership?” and “What prevents you from being more successful in your job than you currently are?”

“I had some very brutal conversations,” he said. “I didn’t try to be defensive about anything. I wanted them to be as open and honest as possible and, even if they could just vent, we’d see where it goes.”

Bart did something in those meetings that is essential in building trust and essential in leadership – he sat back and listened. He used active listening techniques learned in Barry-Wehmiller’s Communications Skills Training.

The team’s response to a safe space in which to express themselves to a fully engaged listener was amazing. They took full advantage of the opportunity to express their feelings. The open dialogue slowly began to establish a new trust.

“I figured that after five or six people, I’d have a good idea of what the issues were and what I’d need to do,” Hardy said. “But what I saw was the impact it was having on them; that a leader would actually take the time to listen. It was just so refreshing. You could see what kind of difference it was making.”

A year later at negotiation time, BW approached the Union and asked if their contract could be extended by three months due to an issue that was occurring outside of PCMC. The Union felt that if an extension was necessary, why not extend for three years and only negotiate the wage scale for the term of the contract.

“It’s hard to quantify trust,” Bart said, “But that kind of blanket extension rarely happens with a labor agreement.

“There were many things that helped rebuild the bridge of trust. I was just a small part, but it shows that listening goes a long way.”

As a leader, one of the most effective ways to gain the trust of those you lead is to listen to them. Bart’s one-on-one meetings not only helped his team by giving them a voice to make a difference in their workplace, they broadened his perspective as a leader to help affect change.

“It was good for them, they got to bend my ear,” Bart said. “But at the end of the day I got to interact with so many people and had so much information to work with. It was fantastic.”

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $2+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 11,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

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1 Comment on "A Bridge of Trust"


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Acton Ace
7 months 28 days ago

Leadership is a quality that everyone should process. Being a leader is not cushy along with it comes responsibility and accountability. Leaders have the responsibilities to maximize the potential of the people with whom they graft & encouraging them to follow the wisdom of others. Leader should be honest and integrated in order to succeed and inspire others to follow them.

• Vision. A smashing leader must bring vision to life 4 that they must be future focused i.e. they must know, what is to be done, How it is to be done & For whom it is to be done. This can be done by casting their vision and ensuring that they have the right people in right place.
• Emotional Intelligence. Good leader is always wiser with people with whom they work with for this they must be well versed with Emotional Intelligence skills. True leader should know how to use power of other people emotions along with their own this will help them more productivity and collaboration which will help them to grow further.
• Effective Communication Skills. Savvy leaders are the one who is a mint listener, ask question and speaks if something is to be said. In leadership communication is a key, leader must be able to communicate with others but being a mint listener will surely going to help.
• Inspiring Gratitude, Personal Responsibility, and Sacrifice in your Corporation are essentials leadership at work.
Mr Chris Salamone https://goo.gl/S8dMjD formerly served as a faculty member at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, and served as a leadership curriculum adviser at The University of Central Oklahoma. Chris Salamone works to improve the lives of young people around the world through his many philanthropic endeavors. He has provided counsel for an eclectic clientele over the course of his long and successful career, representing major corporations, high-level executives, professional athletes, individuals in the public eye, and everyday citizens from a wide variety of backgrounds. He functions as chairman of the Lead America Foundation and extends a considerable amount of financial support to fund the education of 300 children in Haiti.