How to earn employees trust

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

- Maya Angelou

Is excellent customer service a top priority for your business? It is in most companies and becoming more critical every day as a marketing discriminator. Employee trust and empowerment is the key lynchpin for customer service.

However, in lots of businesses, numerous rules, procedures, and guidelines create powerless employees, and as a result, many unhappy customers. Not a good situation.

Related: Keep Your Employees Engaged With 8 Ways That Matter Most

The answer lies in a combination of better employee trust and empowerment. Empowerment means simply that employees can make decisions that influence the outcomes of their work. They can take initiative on behalf of the company. Trust is engendered by open communications, keeping promises, and flexible leadership concerned with developing and engaging employees.

Hire the right mentality

Find and hire employees that are eager to learn and grow. Ones that want to assume growing responsibility and accountabilities. Look for qualities of self-reliance and sense of purpose.

Enhance employee self-esteem

Your regard for people shines through in all of your actions and words. Your facial expression, your body language, and your words express what you are thinking about the people who report to you. Your goal is to demonstrate your appreciation for each person’s unique value. Give your people the opportunity to share their successes and failures with their peers as a means to learn from each other. Coach and encourage them so as to build sustainable, self-perpetuating behavior.

Develop skills for the job

Offer employees ample opportunities for growth and development. Make sure they know and understand how their jobs relate to those around them, including back-up roles and responsibilities. Rotate jobs every couple of years.

Create support systems

Provide a support system in which people will communicate by listening to them and asking them questions. Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown-up people what to do. Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process. Eventually, you will feel comfortable telling the employee that he or she need not ask you about similar situations. You trust and support their judgment.

Encourage initiative and innovation

Be open-minded to new ideas and suggestions for change as a way for the business to get better. Encourage prudent risk-taking. Be willing to accept occasional failures and the learning that goes with it.

Reward behavior not just wins

When employees feel under-compensated, under-titled for the responsibilities they take on, under-noticed, under-praised, and under-appreciated, don’t expect results from employee trust. The basic needs of employees must feel met for them to give you their fully engaged best efforts, that extra effort that people voluntarily invest in work. For successful employee empowerment, recognition plays a significant role. This recognition is as needed for the correct behaviors as it is for the company ‘wins’.

Surrender decision making

Don’t dabble in decisions that you have given up. Make certain that you have given people, or made sure that they have access to, all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions. Always let employees use their judgments and define solutions.


Be a leader that people want to follow. The best leadership is by exception, not rules. Manage results, not tasks or inputs.

Here is a great example of how JetBlue set up a support system to get the best results from their employee trust and empowerment.

JetBlue Example

This is a story of JetBlue’s customer experience strategy built on its employee empowerment culture. I experienced it first hand and was duly impressed.

The story started a while back while I was sitting on the runway in Orlando as my homeward-bound Jet Blue flight was about to taxi toward takeoff. Like just about every other flight that hadn’t already been canceled that day on the Eastern seaboard, ours was a couple of hours late departing. The lead flight attendant gets on the P.A. system and says something very close to:

Ladies and Gentlemen, we know we’re late taking off, and even though it’s the weather and not something we caused, we’re going to comp everybody movies for this flight. We know you’ve all had a long day and we want it to end with something nice and relaxing. And for those of you who were supposed to be on the Continental flight and ended up here, we don’t ever want you to go back.

The mood on the flight which could have been a rather dreary late evening affair took an immediate upswing. People joked and smiled and made eye contact. They were noticeably brighter and calmer as the flight progressed.

What enabled this relatively small act of kindness and allowed it to become a major brand statement? Midflight, I went to the back of the plane and asked. I wanted to know the policy that allowed a flight attendant to make such a call.

We’re allowed to make almost any decision, the flight attendant explained, as long as we can justify it on the basis of one of the airline’s five core values: Safety, Caring, Integrity, Fun or Passion. If we can tie doing something back to one of these principles, the decision is going to be supported by the company.

What JetBlue is saying to its employees … if you act in support of the values that really matter to our business, we want you to take risks in order to care for our customers.



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Mike Schoultz

Mike Schoultz writes about improving the performance of business. Bookmark his blog for stories and articles.