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Build employee trust through effective communication


Rethink what you say, and how you say it, as a way to garner employee trust.

Trust is foundational in any relationship, and leadership is merely another type of relationship. Often, trust is a feeling, a gut instinct, or something we know when we see it.

We don’t spend a lot of time trying describing trust, and, in my opinion, we don’t spend enough time building trust. Merriam-Webster defines trust as the “assured reliance on character, ability, strength or truth of someone and as a dependence on something future: hope.”

As you lead those in your organization, realize they will trust you based upon your character, ability, and vision of the future. One of the best methods you can employ to build that trust is through communication.

Communication is essential aspect for you as a leader. How you communicate information is a reflection of your character. Communicating shares more than information about your plans for the practice. It also reveals your management style and leadership ability and, perhaps most importantly, who you are as a person. Leaders who don’t find the right voice can have difficulty inspiring confidence, motivating employees, and connecting how their work directly helps move the practice toward a better and brighter future.

Consistent communication is perhaps the most effective way to help employees instill trust in you and ensure your practice’s success. When you communicate, be open and honest. Do not sugarcoat, spin or make light of something that requires serious attention. Your job as the leader is to identify and work on issues facing the organization. To downplay the seriousness of a situation weakens your leadership. The opposite is also true. Don’t exaggerate or embellish a situation, either. 

How you communicate with those you lead also speaks volumes about your respect for your employees. Withholding information can breed distrust and disrespect. Withholding information can cause employee morale to drop as well as their esteem for your character. Honest and upfront communication will show that you value your employees.

Here are four ways to ensure your communication is effective and impactful. Your leadership will grow as you use it to build an open and ongoing dialog.


Be consistent

Consistency is one of the most important aspects of communication that build trust. Ask yourself:

  • Is your messaging the same all the time?

  • Is it regular and timely?

  • Is the tone similar in your messaging?

  • Are you sharing the information as soon as reasonably possible?


Be clear

Keep your communication simple and straightforward. Don’t complicate matters with unnecessary technical jargon. Your purpose for communicating is to share information and drive action, not show how smart you are. Ask yourself:

  • Is your messaging concise and to the point?

  • Is your message full of details that cloud the topic you’re talking about?

  • Do you know the purpose of your communication?


Be courteous

If you’re going to implement change, include everyone possible who might be affected. Treat them with respect so they help you bring about the desired change. Ask yourself:

  • Is your message respectful of all of those who might hear it?

  • Do you know how certain parties might receive and interpret the information?

  • Are you communicating to everyone in the department or organization?


Be honest

We learned in kindergarten that honesty is the best policy. All those years later, this simple maxim remains true. Ask yourself:

  • Is your message truthful?

  • Are there any half-truths in your message?

  • Are you sugarcoating or embellishing the situation? 

Keep these guidelines in mind as you communicate with employees. These will become habits over time, and you will concurrently notice you are becoming a better communicator and a stronger leader. Remember that open communication builds trust and, in turn, that empowers employees, increases buy-in, bolsters initiative, and fosters ownership. Altogether, trust can help a physician leader create a practice that not only delivers exemplary patient care but thrives financially.

David J. Norris, MD, MBA, is a practicing anesthesiologist in Wichita, Kan. He is the author of The Financially Intelligent Physician: What They Didn’t Teach You in Medical School and a frequent speaker on physician finances. Read more about David at www.davidnorrismdmba.com.

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