Building Trust and Credibility to Lead Change Initiatives

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Trust is a foundational practice in business, but one that is not guaranteed. Rather, building trust is an ongoing practice. When employees trust their organization and its leadership, the benefits can be outstanding and long-lasting, including higher productivity, better quality products or services, and increased profitability. Without trust, engagement with the mission or vision of the organization could be lost, and navigating through inevitable change can become even more complicated when employees feel unheard or unseen.

Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:

  • 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives
  • 40% less burnout

Building trust means building credibility among employees with a clear vision that respects and recognizes everyone affected by organizational changes. Whether there is a shift in executive leadership, a merger or acquisition, or a new tool or methodology adopted, leading with credibility is fundamental to the success of change initiatives.

“We are all in the business of change in sales enablement,” said Jill Guardia, executive director of sales enablement at TriNet. “Changing around us, changing the selling environment, changing the leadership team, these are all transitions that you have to deal with regularly.”

Here are three essential strategies to help build credibility and ultimately earn trust to navigate change across an organization.

Ease Uncertainty With Transparent Communication

It’s easy to say every company aims to take an open and transparent communication approach with its employees, but that can look quite different depending on the organization and its overall company culture. For sales enablement leaders, this can take the form of regularly meeting with executive stakeholders to gain buy-in for new processes and then coordinating communications reaching all internal partners and leaders to determine alignment on the new initiative or process.

“We created what we call the sales enablement manifesto,” said Paul-Olivier Raynaud-Lacroze, senior vice president of human resources and sales enablement EMEA at dormakaba. “It was just two PowerPoint pages where we established what our vision was, where we are going to work, and where we are not going to work. We started by doing the vision and started to communicate a lot. You can never communicate enough.”

Alignment is a critical aspect of communication when building credibility as teams navigate organizational change. A manifesto or general vision of how a change initiative can take the company forward can be a straightforward way to alleviate confusion or stress from change. Adding aspirational language or being forthright on the reasoning behind the vision can also help peel back the curtain on what’s going on behind the scenes where employees may feel left out or concerned their own best interests are not being considered.

“Work on building and establishing those relationships and use them to help spread the news, spread the wealth, and to give you real practical feedback on everything that you do,” said Guardia. “Don’t just do it as a one-off, do it continuously, and you’ll find that people will voluntarily give you the feedback that you desire and that you need to do better with what you are doing.”

Engage Internal Stakeholders to Build Alignment

Sales enablement professionals thrive when they are involved in the processes that set up companies for success and scale. When dealing with change management, it may be necessary to reflect and refine the processes that are affected by the change. For example, when implementing a new platform or technology for sales reps, comprehensive training is critical in building up the confidence and ultimate adoption of the tool into reps’ workflows.

At this stage, enablement practitioners may want to consider ensuring the change strategy includes collaboration with all stakeholders and leaves room for feedback and improvement. It may be worthwhile to create a dialogue between the users and the organizers on how to implement a new process or change to help build the credibility that it’s worth the time and effort. To start, enablement professionals could pull together a sales advisory board, or a pilot group, to gather feedback and initial thoughts and ideas for the roll-out of the change and work through its impact across the organization. Tapping into the expertise and collaboration of key stakeholders prior to implementing a new change can help combat potential challenges along the way.

“It’s constantly pulling different levers and having a pushing and a pulling effect together,” said Raynaud-Lacroze. “By doing this, we think that we can change behavior little by little because it’s coherent from the top to the lowest levels of the hierarchy. Because we’re working on topics which are important for the business, when a change needs to happen, people just are ready in their mind to change because they see that it is something they also wanted.”

Engagement at every level for each employee, regardless of hierarchical status, evokes a sense of feeling heard and recognized. This empowers all internal stakeholders to openly share any concerns or new ideas that they may have as an organization moves through an adjustment period. Encouraging employees to be actively involved in the process can help them feel embedded in the organization as a whole instead of just merely being a bystander in the aftermath.

Along with a feedback loop, consistency can be essential for how to implement any new initiative. This will clear up any confusion and help ease the transition more efficiently, paving the way for solid alignment across the organization.

Lessen the Burden of Change With Prioritization

Companies that focus on cultivating a more employee-centric culture may be more tuned into the processes that make their employees feel successful and empowered. Along with clear communication and internal stakeholder alignment, change management leaders can also play a significant role in ensuring that employees are engaged throughout a transition by prioritizing what needs to be done first and what can wait so that teams feel less of a burden in their day-to-day workflows.

“I think you need to work with urgency as long as you’re working on the right things,” said Guardia. “You have to balance between important and urgent. And be willing to make mistakes. You learn from your mistakes. That’s how we get better at what we do.”

Prioritizing the most essential tasks first and taking into account how it affects the workload of the teams involved can help deepen the trust between employees and the company. For example, by rolling out a change initiative in phases, enablement leaders can ensure that employees have ample time to digest and adjust to the change in increments. This helps reduce concern about capacity restrictions to learn something new, and can also help limit potential pushback from feeling overwhelmed by an overhaul of one’s daily routine.

By keeping the feelings of internal audiences in mind when rolling out a new change, enablement can demonstrate that they value the experience that employees have and the impact of change on those experiences. Ultimately, this can help stakeholders trust that enablement leaders have the best interest of employees in mind.

“It’s important that you, whether you’re a team of one or a team of many, really look across the sales organization and make the time to invest in building those relationships,” said Guardia. “It’s about making that investment in the individuals throughout your organization that gravitates to you, gravitate to enablement, gravitate to the content, and the programs that you’re delivering.”

Building trust and credibility even amid tremendous change is an ongoing process and mindset for an organization. By focusing on transparent communication, increasing alignment and collaboration, deepening engagement among employees, and above all being human, change management leaders can wade through even the most challenging of times to come out stronger and more successful than before.

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