How to Develop Trust in an Organization

One of the most common problems in an organization and how to solve it

According to the PwC global CEO survey, 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth. Can we “schedule” steps towards a goal such as to increase trust in an organization to level x ? How do we measure it? Trust is not delegable. Coaching assignments in Europe taught me that I cannot do the job (coaching) effectively without including the upper management in the process. We are in this together. Ultimately, a positive relationship to a superior, employee and to colleagues is a way stronger bond than what money could pay. When everything seems to be on the edge of breaking down, we can afford to invest in positive relationships to work at our best together. How do you invest in building trust?

A common misbelief about Happiness at Work

“Caring for our employees’ happiness is a luxury we cannot afford, especially in times of crisis”, I heard the other day. Leaders have to focus on reaching “hard” business goals, facts and numbers to make the party go on. The level of contentment of employees seems too far away from business goals. There might be a dangerous misconception about employees contentment at work and building trustworthy relationships: Many leaders still seem to believe that employees can be motivated by monetary incentives, exiting excursions or workshops at interesting destinations. Over here in Europe unoriginal traditional leadership techniques are still common: subtle types of intimidation, hidden threats of losing the job and tools such as positive-manipulative feedback techniques (the “sandwich technique”, saying something positive, expressing what you really want to say, saying something positive again). Yes, inducing fear creates a reaction, and business numbers might be reached short term, but as soon as another job possibility is in sight, the employee is gone. However, most people are loyal to trustworthy people. Good leaders can take their whole department with them to another company when they leave an organization. Fear of losing the job is stressful for employees. They may manage to reach those numbers but longterm stress can kill motivation, creativity and health. So let’s dig into the possibility of adding trust to the goals for business success.

How Trust Creates Joy

Trust creates joy, according to Paul J. Zak founder of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and a professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University. Experiments have shown that having a sense of higher purpose stimulates oxytocin production, as does trust. Trust and purpose reinforce each other, which leads to extended oxytocin release, which translates to happiness.

“Joy on the job comes from doing purpose-driven work with a trusted team. In the nationally representative data set described in the main article, the correlation between (1) trust reinforced by purpose and (2) joy is very high: 0.77. It means that joy can be considered a “sufficient statistic” that reveals how effectively your company’s culture engages employees.”

How much do you enjoy your job on a typical day?

Therefor the answer to “How much do you enjoy your job on a typical day?” is also an indicator for the the level of engagement of an employee.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.” said Max De Pree, former Herman Miller CEO.

It takes clarity, honesty, humility and respect to build trust in people. People need a clear direction and information transparency to see it through. And it takes getting out of they way so they can do their job. My father had been working for 50odd years in the same company and he was happy there, even during intense times of change and challenges. His former boss showed real leadership skills, real respect and real gratitude. No sweet talking. No manipulation. I once witnessed a scene and could clearly hear, see and feel this leader spoke in a serious and kind way. My father didn’t like everything about this boss, but he was trustworthy, he knew exactly what was going on and could dare to talk to him fearlessly about serious problems. Plus, he always knew what he had to do and when things changed quickly he could ask for support to learn the new system quicker.

It’s not at all about pampering your employees, being easy on them or expecting less from them. High-trust companies hold people accountable without controlling every of their steps. They treat people like responsible adults.

Communication is key

Communication skills is on top of the softs skill list. Understanding each other is necessary for successful trust building. Clear, transparent, fear-free communication, can be a game changer in terms of trust within an organization- e.g. by combining individual personal development and team-training. Here is a practical example: we train to do “reality checks” on the way we habitually interpret, assume, suppose, conclude and what really is. We train to communicate clearly and kind. We train how to get over the idea of “I don’t like this guy” or the idea “she doesn’t like me” etc.. What sounds almost insignificant can have a profound impact on the organizational culture and way beyond the professional scene. Imagine how you would feel, if you learned to let go of prejudices, judgments and preset ideas about the outturn of a situation?

Lead yourself first

Communication skills start with the communication in our own head and becoming clear about those messages, the emotional impact and our actual performance. Leaders who continuously do their homework are role models. They know that errors can be huge possibilities to improve processes significantly as long as they stay balanced, can forgive and communicate clearly. They can build trust, because they are trust-worthy: they are authentic and congruent in what they say, feel and do. They are human. They have active listening skills. They act upon their errors and insights: not only when things don’t turn out as planned there is room for continuous development beyond the comfort zone. It’s not easy and it’s not hard work either. Coaching and trainings of that type at some point takes leaving the comfort zone for most of us, yet in a healthy, rewarding and sustainable way. Nothing you do on a weekend. It rather becomes a lifestyle.

Isn’t that what we all crave for: growing in some way, contributing in some way and enjoying trustworthy relationships?

What is your opinion on trust within an organization?
Is it a luxury or a necessary goal to sustainably ensure success?
What’s the culture in your organization like?
Can you afford to tell the truth?
Is communication based on truth and trust or subtle manipulation?
How do you relate to your boss and colleagues?
Seriously, How do you like your job on an average day?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: