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Building Trust
Glenn Hodgeson

An efficient and positive workplace is built on a number of crucial factors Ė a physical environment that accommodates the needs of the employees, clear and frequent communication between employees and leaders, and an understanding of who should be doing what and when. All of these things contribute to the organization running like a well-oiled machine. But not without one last piece: trust. Without trust, a company that is doing everything else right can end up crashing and burning.

Creating a culture of trust

Trust is one of those things that often gets forgotten when it comes to developing an organizationís team. Many think itís got too much to do with touchy-feely stuff, not tangible numbers. However, even though itís invisible, and it takes a lot of work and emotional intelligence to get to a place of trust in an organization, a team that trusts will positively affect an organizationís functions on all levels, so itís worth putting in the time and effort.

It is a lot easier to encourage and build trust in an organization when the organization has trust at the core of its being. A culture of trust comes from encouraging employees to try, even if they make a mistake. It means supporting them through mistakes rather than berating them. And it means being intentional about building strong relationships between colleagues and leaders.

If employees donít feel they are being trusted by their higher ups, they wonít trust their leaders or their colleagues. When trust starts from the top, it encourages the entire culture of the organization to follow suit. Leaders are the role models and the motivation for their employees. If they donít practice what they preach, they canít expect their employees to do the same.

Honesty and consistency

Trust is learned and built, itís not a given. Leaders need to build trust with their employees by saying things as they are, not beating around the bush. They need to keep their word, keep their commitments, and show up. By demonstrating the type of employee they want to see, they can ease off on micromanaging and let their employees follow suit out of a want to do so, not force.

Employees should also be encouraged to be honest with their higher ups, not protect them from the truth in order to avoid anger. Leaders need to be prepared to hear it all and handle whatever it is with poise, honesty, and logic. When employees are encouraged to share honest reports, not just the most positive spin they could put on things, the organization gets a more well-rounded view of whatís going on and can proceed accordingly.

A key to trust in an organization is that employees feel comfortable owning up to things they have done Ė good or bad Ė and feeling confident in their reasons for doing them. When accountability is promoted in an organization, employees know that their efforts will be appreciated, regardless of the outcome. This attitude promotes creativity, innovation, and it all boils down to trust.

Build soft skills to benefit everybody

Trust touches on the softer side of humans. It does have to do with empathy, feelings, and other soft skills. Business is a mix of the hard facts, technical skills, and numbers combined with a variety of soft skills. As such, leaders need to encourage their employees to develop not only their technical knowledge, but also those skills that deal with emotions and relationships as well. This will create a more well-rounded environment and will contribute to trust throughout the organization.

Encouraging and implementing trust in your organization provides benefits across the board. Although it takes consistent and continuous efforts to ensure trust is a clear part of an organizationís culture, it is well worth the dedication. Probably the most appealing benefit for many is that trust does directly affect the bottom line of the company. Although companies are far more complex than just how much money they make, this is a clear benefit, and youíd be hard-pressed to find an organization wanting to turn down proven financial profits using a technique that is essentially free.

Bump productivity and innovation

Humans are wired to follow their free will. As such, we are typically more likely to do something if we think itís our idea, or if it is requested or suggested, rather than forced. Companies that run on micromanagement, fear, and stress may feel they are being more productive, but they are only running at the speed that is expected by the leaders. When left to their own devices, and given a little leeway, employees may actually work harder, faster, and more efficiently.

Another benefit of trust is that employees will let loose on their ideas and thoughts. The concept is very similar to productivity. When their hand is being forced by their leaders, employees will only complete what they are expected to complete and will do so exactly how they are told to do it. If everybody just continued to do things the way they had always been done, we wouldnít have most of the inventions and technology we have today. When employees are trusted to do their work, they are also likely to find better ways of doing it.

Ethics come into question when people are afraid. People lie when they donít want to tell the truth about something, and most often that is a result of fear. People steal when they canít be honest about their needs, and people cheat when they arenít confident they are going to win. When employees are trusted, they are encouraged to tell the truth Ė so they donít have to lie. Trusted employees donít need to steal, because they can be upfront about what they need or what they think they deserve, and negotiations can take place. And employees who are trusted donít need to cheat because they are supported properly so they do win. And if they lose? Itís not that big of a deal Ė as long as they learn.

Where to start?

If youíre now realizing that your organization isnít using trust as a tool for success, you might be wondering where to start. You first need to analyze trust in your organization by searching for the symptoms or results of distrust. Are people communicating? Are employees hiding information? Are people willing to try new things, or has everything been done the same for the last 20 years? Once you know where your organization stands on the issue of trust, start from the top and work your way down. It takes time, but itís worth the wait.

As we continue to move towards an increasingly automated and digital world, itís not our skills or knowledge that are going to be the most important. Itís our attitudes, our soft skills, and our ability to relate with our employees, bosses, colleagues, and peers. There are no drawbacks of trust, as long as the organization is not trusting blindly, but doing so with purpose. Taking steps towards introducing and maintaining this important skill in the workplace will reap a number of benefits. Building trusts benefits everybody. What have you got to lose?

This Month
The One Constant: Change

Getting Ready for Big Changes

Building Trust

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