5 ways to bridge the trust gap between senior and middle management

29 September 2016 -

“TrustDial"

With new research revealing trust in senior leadership teams is worryingly low, we take a look at some practical ways for building trust and boosting performance

CMI’s latest report, The Middle Manager Lifeline, found that only one third (36%) of middle managers fully trust their leadership, creating a trust gap that is eating away at business performance.

To help managers bridge that trust gap, CMI has come up with five practical takeaways for improving communication in your organisation.

1. Prioritising communication as the lifeblood of the organisation

Effective communication targets peoples’ hearts as well as their minds by defining how they too can play a part in the future of the organisation. Try to make your communications as personally relevant to the audience, do not use management jargon and use simple, clear words wherever possible.

2. Hold bespoke events for middle managers

Leaders should take more time to talk to their middle managers, face-to-face, in both a formal and informal way. Well planned bespoke middle manager events require an investment of (leadership) time but can be extremely effective. These cannot be plenary only sessions and will have a mix of plenary and breakouts where the interaction and two-way debate will happen.

3. Remember the power of Management By Walking Around

Informal communication with middle managers is vital. The importance of MBWA – management by walking around – cannot be under-estimated. For the middle manager, even one meaningful face-to-face interaction with the business leader is incredibly valuable. Getting out from behind the desk and into the teams should be prioritised.

4. Implement a trust measurement system

Trust is a crucial metric in business. How much a business leader and leadership is trusted is a vital measure against which the communication efforts of that leader should be assessed. Business leaders and senior management teams should use staff surveys to measure and monitor the proportion of “high-trust managers” in their organisation – and aim to increase them.

5. Adapt for your organisational needs

The practicality of meaningful face-to-face interactions is of course challenging for leaders in larger companies or those that are geographically dispersed. Using tactics such as focus groups, featuring a cross section of middle managers, and intranet surveys to engage with focus group output, starts the “listening” process.

Use outputs and insights from this to design roadshows or events. Leaders can then tailor the message by audience. Using the event design to help craft cascade communication plans is also effective, working with managers to understand what the challenges might be and how to overcome them in a ‘team brief’ situation. Think about supporting with video to help get the CEO in the room at a subsequent cascade briefing. This in turn will help either build or repair trust where it is broken.

Find out more about The Middle Manager Lifeline, including how to build trust in your organisation, here

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