Honesty is crucial in any relationship — especially in the workplace. As leaders, we want our employees to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with us. We try to create spaces where they can do so by asking for feedback during meetings or stopping by their desks to check in. But sometimes, we’re met with silence.
It’s not that our team members don’t have thoughts — it’s quite the opposite. They may have concerns or insights but may not feel safe to share due to a lack of trust or a fear of repercussions. How can we show our employees that they can trust us, and create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing their insights, thoughts and concerns?
Here are five ways to create an honest work culture with your team.
1. Own your shortcomings.
If we want our teams to be open with us, we have to be honest with ourselves. As intimidating as it can be, owning up to our mistakes and discussing them with our team is an important first step to encouraging transparency. Doing so will show your team that they don’t have to be worried when they fall short and can trust you’ll be there to support and encourage them.
2. Have hard conversations.
As leaders, we often have to have challenging conversations with our teams. Disagreements may arise, things may go poorly or we may be concerned about an employee’s performance.
Don’t shy away from those conversations. Instead, practice being honest about your concerns, while at the same time, being understanding and intentional about wanting to support and encourage your team members. Having difficult conversations will help clear the air and show your team you are there for them and want to help them, even in the midst of difficult situations.
3. Encourage discussion.
Whether it’s constructive feedback on your leadership, insights into how to improve company processes or concerns about a project, it’s important that you make opportunities for your team to share their thoughts.
Create an honest work culture by making space to have those conversations. Ask for feedback during meetings, make yourself available after or send out anonymous surveys. Making time to hear from your team will show you value their perspective and will encourage them to be open and share their opinions.
4. Ask questions.
Sometimes, employees may have a hard time opening up about how they’re feeling, even when they’re given the space to do so. Be intentional about checking in with your team members one-on-one, either over coffee or lunch. Ask them how they’re feeling about their current projects or if there’s anything you can be doing better. Asking specific questions in a more private setting will help your team members feel more comfortable opening up and coming to you in the future.
5. Be understanding.
Once you’ve created space for your team to share their thoughts, it’s important that you take time to listen. Be sure to thank them for their honesty when they come to you and be intentional about considering their ideas or concerns. Then, work with them to come up with solutions and ways to implement those changes. Showing your team you value their feedback will help them feel seen and trust you to support them.
It takes time to create an honest work culture. Start by making small, intentional choices to be honest and open with your team. Being transparent with your team will build trust, and over time, will help them to feel confident doing the same.