This blog first appeared on Entrepreneur.com.
Building a culture of trust and motivation is a two-way street that depends largely on communication.
Both employees and management should commit to open dialogue across the board. This sounds simple, but can be difficult to implement. For example, while it may seem easy to celebrate successes together, it’s not always clear how the full team should work to address problems.
Inclusive and honest discussion should be the goal, even if there is disagreement. That’s because the process of working through those disagreements is crucial for a healthy workplace culture and high morale.
No matter the structure of your company, there are four core principles for employees and manager that should underlie all types of communication to create an atmosphere of trust and keep motivation high.
Employees: Speak with authority
A business needs the full participation of every employee to be successful, so remember that your voice matters. This is especially true when your views differ with one of your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to disagree. Your particular role in the company gives you a unique perspective, which can shed light on issues from a new angle and help solve potential problems faster.
I experienced this early on in my career. The company I was working for had just announced a new strategy. I knew that it needed serious improvement and could actually be detrimental to our business if implemented as initially envisioned.
I was nervous about expressing my concerns to colleagues who outranked me, my recommendations ultimately improved our overall plan. This experience gave me the confidence to continue sharing my opinions, and now, having led businesses for several years, I understand the importance of fostering open communication.
Management: Encourage differing points of view
As a leader, you have even more power to create an environment where your colleagues know their voices will be heard. A major part of this involves accepting differing points of view, which has a two-fold benefit for your business.
It gives everyone confidence that their thoughts are valued, which builds a sense of loyalty. It also encourages critical thinking about the state of the business from all levels. Once this open culture has been established and appropriately encouraged, problems can be addressed, or even prevented, earlier, as you will have set the stage for more vigilance about the well-being of the company.
Management: Formal recognition goes a long way
Balance is key for most aspects of a business, and that holds true for creating a trusting culture. Just as employees should be able to honestly communicate with management to solve problems, they should expect widespread recognition for their successes.
I put that theory into action at H2O+ Beauty by creating the Water Walker award. This program recognizes individuals or groups from any part of the company that exemplify H2O+ Beauty’s values, based on nominations from all team members. Traditions like this can be a tool to keep motivation high by showing everyone how their achievements are appreciated across the entire business.
Employees: Participate in important traditions
Since the Water Walker award was originally the brainchild of the leadership team, it is especially important that employees give it credibility by participating. Ideally, traditions like these underscore the value of an individual or group to both their peers and superiors, but they require eager, honest contributions from the bulk of the workforce to fulfill their potential.
Ultimately, each member of a business has the power to build a culture of trust and boost motivation among their colleagues. Leaders may set the tone of the culture with strong opinions and positive traditions, but the longevity of an open, mutually supportive culture cannot be assured without the buy-in of employees. If individuals at every level of a business can express themselves confidently and show equal respect for important customs, the culture will thrive over the long term.