Do you really trust your team?

Ashley Byrne reveals some hard truths about the real meaning of trust, and the benefits of having a team that feels trusted.

Ashley Byrne reveals some hard truths about the real meaning of trust and the ‘incalculable’ benefits of having a team who feels trusted.

‘I trust my team’, is so often said. But how many employers actually trust their team completely? When we say, ‘I trust my team’, what do we actually mean? More importantly, what does that mean to the employee?

Did you know that a recent study found that employees who truly felt trusted delivered up to 50% more production? Yet less than one in three people truly trust their employer… Trust in a team is the foundation of any incredible organisation and, when utilised well, it has the power to enable that team to achieve just about anything.

But what is trust, and how can employees and team leaders utilise trust to benefit a dental lab?

What is trust?

When we talk about trust, I don’t mean leaving your wallet on the side and it still being there at the end of the day. If it’s not there at the end of the day, the problem far outstretches the solutions in this article!

Trust is vital in an employee and essential in a team if you plan to make waves in any industry. It comes in countless forms, from timekeeping to decision making.

But in an industry ruled by perfectionists and artists, you may be surprised by how challenging ‘complete’ trust in your team is to achieve and manage.

If we start with individuals, certain levels of trust are expected right from the very start. Turn up on time, do your work, don’t call in sick for no reason etc. However, employers often fall short on day one without even realising the error of their ways.

Do your employees feel trusted?

As an employer, we really need to consider how trust is perceived by the individual. A prime example of failing to trust is time stamps or ‘logging on’ to show that employees arrive on time and do the hours required.

While this basic approach is used by a lot of organisations to monitor employees, it is seen by many as ‘you don’t trust me to do my hours’. And you can see why.

In this modern world of flexible working hours and working from home, it can be very difficult to track hours and it is questionable if this is an effective measure of productivity at all. This is why trust is so key to making flexitime and hybrid arrangements work, and employees that work to a flexible arrangement are four times more likely to stay with you.

Therefore, trust also plays a key part in talent retention.

A trusted team

I have a hybrid work situation myself, which means I work from home most Fridays and have been doing so for over six years. For that to work, I must explicitly trust my team to do their jobs at the lab without me, to turn up on time, deliver high quality work, and make key decisions.

We trust people to do flexitime, we don’t track their hours, but we do expect a quality product.

Some of you may now be thinking, ‘Well, it’s not that easy, and what about people who come in late regularly?’ This is when a trusted team comes into its own. A trusted team works cohesively, and there will be an inherent pressure to emulate the team’s behaviours.

People that try to break that trust or don’t follow the general tone will usually change their attitude, simply because no-one else is doing it. Humans like to be part of a community and often have a pack-like mentality. Being the one person who breaks that trust results in either a positive change or isolation.

If isolation happens, they don’t usually stay in the team for very long. That is just one benefit of a trusted team, however getting to that point is no easy task. It takes time and effort, and, once established, it takes dedication to maintain, but it’s frighteningly easy to lose.

Letting go

Trust in a lab comes in all walks. From quality control to phone calls with clients, invoicing, trusting a non-technical worker with schedules, and allowing your team to quality control other team members’ work constructively.

Trust is letting go and, for any business owner, that is incredibly hard. You set your standard, you set your way of working, and your lab becomes like a text font. You want all work to be like that font, but when someone else’s font doesn’t quite match, we step in and tweak that person’s work.

If we tweak everything in a controlling way, trust isn’t built, but rather diminished a little with each tweak. We always have to quality control, but we also have to expand our mind and let people’s styles integrate into our business.

There isn’t a day that goes by in my lab where a phone call, type of work, email etc may not be quite how I would have done it, but I must let go and trust my team to make those decisions. If I feel it’s outside the acceptable margin of a standard I’ve set, then I need to do more training.

We don’t criticise – we train and grow.

The key to trust building

When work goes out untouched by anyone other than the technician who made it, incredible trust is built. That trust builds confidence, it encourages more challenging work to be made, more difficult decisions to be taken, and a development of the person and the unity of the team.

That is trust building right there, and the ability for the lab owner to step away and confidently leave the team to make those challenging decisions is what builds a great business.

We have to accept that bad decisions will be made, work will be poor, a terrible phone call will be made, and you will read an email that will make you cringe. Those can end with a disappointed client and it’s easy to pass that blame to the person or the team.

But the moment blame is passed from lab owner to team member, all trust can be lost if handled poorly. A strict no-blame culture is key to trust. Mistakes in your company must be accepted and the responsibility lies with the leader. The solution is training, not blame, and that can be hard for us to accept as perfectionist lab owners.

Great reward

Trust can be achieved in countless ways. But, however it is achieved, the benefits are incalculable. It allows the lab owner to take the business in any direction with the team’s complete support because they trust your decisions.

I would be the first to admit I’ve gained trust over years and lost it in a heartbeat. It’s always a learning curve and every year we improve. However, it really is worth the time and effort because the rewards will outstrip any machine, new material, or client.

I’ll leave you with a quote that sums up my view on trust in business. It’s from a chap called Pete Caroll who said: ‘Highly successful performers in business and sports show a level of trust and understanding that separates them from their competition.’

Trust your team and you’ll see instant results that allow you to achieve just about anything.

This article first appeared in Laboratory. To receive a copy, sign up to Dentistry Club.

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