Trust is key to an individual’s or a company’s success, yet only in recent years has any thoughtful discussion of anything to do with trust appeared in business school curriculum. Too often it’s not talked about until it’s hurt or eroded. Even then, rather than discussing it, we simply choose to show it in our behavior.
Trust is what brings people together and keeps them together. It is a key building block in the creation of a company’s reputation. As a direct result of that it impacts shareholder value. Nine out of ten people agree that a corporation’s reputation plays a large role in forming opinions about products and services. 8 out of 10 agree to pay more money for goods and services from a company with a well-regarded record.
Trust never stands still. It’s never neutral. It’s either accelerating or decelerating what you are trying to do as an organization, leader, or family.
High levels of trust offer you the benefit of the doubt. If folks feel you mean them no harm and will keep simple agreements they will look past mistakes. They are more willing to put up with little irritations and pesky inconveniences in order to carry on with their efforts.
Low levels of trust become time vampires. Trust accelerates, where mistrust decelerates – like running in water that’s waist deep. Things go slowly and sloppily because you are being questioned on everything you do. No good deed goes unsuspected. Every action will be labeled with a negative intent.
Sometimes trust is impacted by an external cause. If there’s a downturn in the market, fear and mistrust are familiar by products. Fear and mistrust travel in the same circle. Leaders should not be blindsided by this. Communication must be ramped up.
Trust is the currency that our relationships run on.
Here are five tips on building a culture of trust that I am personally working on.
1. Start With The Person. This personal approach has a way of impacting the whole group. It’s actually contagious. Others pick up on the vibes and grow in their trust.
2. Market Transparency. We market our greatest products. Trust should be at the top. If you are transparent, people will trust you more. A problem with a lot of organization is that their trustworthy inner workings are not marketed. They are hidden! Nobody knows about it. Maybe all the needed information is available. But do people know how to acquire it? Do they know where to look for it? Do they even know it’s available? Don’t just be transparent. Be proactive in pointing it out so that others can see it. Unethical companies cover up the bad stuff that’s going on. It’s not uncommon for some ethical companies to inadvertently hide the good they are doing.
3. Avoid “Blame-storming.” It’s easy to get creative in trying to find an appropriate “scapegoat.” Seed Accountability and Weed Blame. The person that can describe the problem without assigning blame is the real leader. Blame-free problem solving is better than a blame storming session. People respect being held accountable, but we naturally avoid an atmosphere of blame and punishment. Accountability encourages corrective action. Blame encourages self-protection—ducking and diving so as not to get hit.
4. Speak About Others As Though They Were Present. Do this, not just at work, but everywhere you find yourself. There are few better habits for building your trustworthiness and their trust. This draws people to you, increases their trust, and sets a strong example for them to do likewise.
5. Hang a Lantern On Your Mistakes. Don’t conceal them. Illuminate them so learning can take place. When you fall down or misfire on a commitment, don’t hide it. Hang a lantern on it so everyone involved can see your acknowledgment and ownership. Too many leaders have never been trained how to do this.
Here are some questions to help make the discussion a part of your team’s agenda (this works in every relationship). Ask the questions on an individual level and come together to discuss the results.
- What does trust look like to you?
- Why is trust important to you?
- How would increased trust help meet our strategic objectives?
- What are 3 things our team could do to build on our mutual trust?
Getting together to discuss the results will in itself promote trust. When we trust we connect. When we connect we inspire. It’s in this atmosphere of inspiration that our best work gets done.
(Mick Ukleja is the co-author of the book The Ethics Challenge: Strengthening Your Integrity in a Greedy World)