You earn loyalty by telling the truth. That’s easy to say but tough to do, especially when changes beyond your control force you to renege on promises.
Here’s how to get people to believe that your word counts:
Acknowledge variables. When you make commitments to employees, don’t overstate yourself. Why? You risk boxing yourself into a corner.
Identify forces beyond your control that can influence the outcome. Your willingness to level with the team will be appreciated. Example: “I can’t guarantee you’ll get that promotion because it depends in part on whether we merge with Acme Corp.”
Cite experience. Explain that you do not make promises lightly. Share lessons you’ve learned and how you’ll apply them this time. Perhaps you didn’t account for software bugs when you assured your staff that you’d accommodate their work-shift preferences. Tell them you’ve abandoned the faulty software, and you have a more reliable way to plan shifts.
Fix what’s broken. Your employees will treat your word as gold if you respond to their complaints. Look for opportunities to remove obstacles, eliminate procedures they loathe and act on their ideas.
Give consistent messages. You’ll lose credibility quickly if you send contradictory signals to different employees. Give one answer to one and all. Don’t feed the party line to most of your staffers while confessing the ugly truth to a few of your favorites.