A new client who recently lost an NLRB election engaged me to develop a labor strategy and negotiate with their newly elected union. The client asked what she could have done differently to avoid this terrible outcome. The client related that her business had been in trouble but she had successfully made a positive turnaround. They made a strategic product line change, aligned sufficient capital to reinvest in new modern production equipment and successfully launched new channels of distribution.
Having labor problems, just as she was beginning to see real substantial returns was, to say the least, very difficult to swallow, especially when she had made a conscious effort to protected headcount and benefits during the process. She felt her people should have been engaged and grateful that the company had looked after their jobs and families.
My response was rather short. Her energies were all focused outward. As a leader, you cannot forget your responsibility to those within your organization. Leadership has many components. However, in my experience, one of the most common symptoms found when a union is successful, is lack of trust in management. My experience also tells me that employees lose trust in management during periods of rapid change, unless leadership pays particular attention to communication and managing their employee’s perceptions.
Building and keeping trust needs vigilance. It does not cost a lot of money.
What are the key elements of trust: Open, honest communication. Acting with integrity. Following up in commitments. Consistency. Encouraging discussion of common problems. Listening. Recognizing achievement or progress.
However, like any business objective, leaders need to be manage these elements consistently.
As we developed a labor strategy for her organization, these ideas were incorporated into the final plan. It would have served her well to have included them in the beginning, as she began to realign her business. How are you and your leadership team doing in managing trust? Is it time for a check-up?