The Key To Creating An Atmosphere Of Inspiration

Trust is a universal need.  It is important whether you are leading or following.  Leaders cannot lead without the trust of their teams.  On the other hand, leaders will not be able to lead unless they trust their teams.

In a study of 32,000 employees in large and midsize organizations across a wide range of industries globally, trust was at the top of the list for employee engagement.1 Of the highly engaged employees:

  • 65% felt that developing future leaders was important for managers
  • 72% felt that managers needed to have a sincere interest in their employee’s well-being
  • 79% felt that trust and confidence in their senior leaders were essential for connection and interdependency.

During change and transition the need for trust takes on exponential proportions. Employees have been doing more with less—and in some cases, for less—for over half a decade.  That reality doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.  Organizations that survived the past economic crisis were companies with a strong foundation of trust.

Trust is not a one way street.  It only works in two directions.  You have to give it in order to get it.  One of the keys to trust is transparency.  When others see it, trust is being built.  When we take responsibility for our actions, we are constructing trust.  When we communicate openly—both the good and the bad—trust grows.  When we show we care about others as much as organizational results, trust is being created.  Rather than these behaviors hurting organizational outcomes, people take pride in what they do and the quality of their work.

According to the Towers Watson study, trust was a key factor in employee retention.  It wasn’t the only factor, but it was at the TOP of the list.  You’ve heard the statement “people join companies and leave managers”.  It turns out that one of the specific reasons people leave is because trust has been eroded.

It should also come as no surprise that organizational cultures of high trust strongly outperformed their competition.  Profitable organizations are built by successful teams.  Successful teams are highly engaged teams.  Highly engaged teams are found only in cultures where trust is high.  Cultures of high trust are not accidental.  They are intentional.

Trust is the bridge between the organization’s need for outcomes and the individual’s need for connection.  It is universal, and it is reciprocal in nature.    And the good news is that trust is a natural human need.  We really do want to trust each other!

Trust is all about connecting.  The greater the trust, the stronger the connection.  And connection is a synonym for engagement.  We connect with others by helping them get what they want.  They, in turn, help us get what we want.  This is part of the DNA of trust.  There is no connection unless we connect on common ground.  Even in hierarchical organizations the connection takes place on common ground.  The greatest generals have always connected emotionally and tangibly with the front line troops.  That has always lead to greater engagement.

So how can leaders connect?  How can they help develop reciprocal trust?  They do more than proclaim it.  They make it a part of their team’s agenda.  The best way to get buy in is to get input. They make it a part of their team’s conversation.  They ask questions on an individual level, then they bring the team together to discuss the results.  Try these on for starters:

  • 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?

Get together and discuss the results.  This in itself promotes trust.

When trust is low relationships are weaker.  When relationships are weaker, results suffer.

When we trust, we connect.  When we connect we inspire.  And it’s in this atmosphere of inspiration that our best work gets done.

1Towers Watson Global Workforce Study. 2012