Trusting Your People: This Is How to Build Brands
I believe public relations is the conscience of an organization. But how can PR professionals fulfill that role? And how can we help shape conscientious company cultures that create authentic brand perceptions?
The answer to both of these questions, I believe, is to build trust — something that seems in short supply these days.
As communicators, we are leaders. And we also guide other leaders. As such, we must guide our organizations to become places where employees feel valued, trusted and empowered. Before we can help build a brand, we must first establish a culture of trust within the organization.
As the founder of a boutique PR agency, I’m often asked about company culture. Whenever possible, I let our team members answer that question. After all, they help build and shape our culture. It makes me proud when someone on our team says they feel trusted and empowered at work.
Since we lead by example, to build trust within our organizations we must first be comfortable trusting others. My favorite way to show I trust someone is by trusting their judgment.
When an employee asks a supervisor what to do, the supervisor can ask the employee what they think should be done. We might ask, “What does your gut tell you?” or, “What were you already thinking?” And if their response sounds right, we should support them and say, “I think that’s a very smart plan.”
Trust is a two-way street. When team members trust us to tell them something is wrong, they can feel confident navigating their daily jobs. And if they trust that we care about them and their success, they’ll know that our feedback, corrections and constructive criticism are intended to encourage their growth and development.
Building trust also means addressing problems as they arise. Doing so doesn’t need to be punitive, but we must pay attention and be candid to earn that trust.
Empowering employees can be more difficult than it sounds. When a boss says, “I empower you to make that decision,” it can sound like a statement of power itself. Without intending to, the supervisor might undermine the employee’s confidence and independence.
But there are subtler ways to empower people. When I see someone struggling on the job or perceive that they’re overwhelmed, I always step in and try to help. But the other person might misconstrue my intentions and think: “I’m not doing a good enough job. She doesn’t trust me to get this right.”
When we get the inkling to “help,” we might instead ask the other person whether he or she wants our help — and then listen.
Earning trust from team members means learning to communicate our intentions clearly. For example, we might say: “I can help if it’s actually helpful. And I’ll listen and respect your decision if you prefer to tackle this problem your own way.”
These conversations with employees deserve as much of our time as brand perception, social engagement and media coverage. A respected brand is important. But a respected team always comes first.