Trust – Engager Dynamic #10

How important is Trust in the workplace? A recent study showed that the answer to the question, “Do you trust your boss,” was the single most predictive indicator of team and organizational performance. Why do you suppose that is? If you work in a trust-filled environment you may not be best equipped to answer that question. There’s a saying, “Fish discover water last.” They don’t discover (or analyze) it because, for them, it just is. Only when it becomes toxic or polluted do fish become aware of water. In the same way, someone who works in a low-trust environment might be better able to explain why trust is so important at work.

This Engager Dynamic has two dimensions. As the boss you will need to build a culture of trust. Ironically, one of the ways you do that is by giving trust. Even if you’re not the boss, you can be a leader in your organization in the effort to build trust.

What’s So Important About Trust?

We often think of trust as a “soft” skill or competency that cannot be measured or tracked so we consider it a “nice-to-have” and leave it at that. Too bad if it’s not there. Stephen Covey, in his book The Speed of Trust, offers many specific case studies showing how trust makes the difference in the performance of an organization and he is able to quantify the effect on the bottom line. He says, “Trust is the one thing above everything else that builds productive relationships and leads to a successful business.”

A Toxic Trust Environment

Just like the fish and water, when the work environment lacks trust you can feel the toxicity. When trust is down: the cost of doing business goes up and the speed of delivery goes way down: rather than being productive people spend more time and energy:

  • protecting themselves
  • talking behind other’s backs
  • politicking
  • Managing their behaviors and interactions with the group
When there is an absence of trust real issues are not addressed, decisions are not made, there is lack of accountability. More rules are required to manage behaviors so the bureaucracy and red tape grow, innovation is stifled, and progress is slowed. As a result, productivity slows down, mediocrity prevails, loyalty is low and turnover is high.

Conversely when there is Trust

  • You are comfortable, confident and willing to admit weakness and mistakes.
  • You will ask for help, without fear of reprisal.
  • You gladly accept questions and input about your area of responsibilities, without feeling criticized, judged or questioned.
  • You are willing to give others the benefit of the doubt and they do the same for you
  • You take risks and offer feedback and assistance
  • You recognize, appreciate and tap into others skills and experience

How to Erode Trust

  • Don’t do what you say you are going to do
  • Gossip about others behind their backs
  • Hide your agenda
  • Spin the truth rather than tell the truth
  • Lack transparency
A Low-Trust environment is diagnosed from the outside-in. In other words, you can detect the low trust by the behaviors you observe. However, trust is developed from the inside-out. We have to start with ourselves.

“The 13 Trust Building Behaviors” found in Stephen Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust:

  1. Talk Straight: in other words say what you mean and mean what you say
  2. Demonstrate Respect; in all that you do and say. Show up on time to meetings, fully engage, disclose all of the relevant information, challenge others and hold others and yourself accountable.
  3. Create Transparency: this might require a deliberate effort along with communications systems and standards (no hidden agendas)
  4. Right Wrongs; learn to admit your mistakes, say you are sorry and move on
  5. Show Loyalty: one way to do that is by not talking behind someone’s back and that includes your boss
  6. Deliver Results: Say what you will do, but then, DO WHAT YOU SAID YOU WOULD
  7. Get Better: improve your skills and competencies, maybe you will hire a coach who might help you to grow and gain new perspective , new tools and techniques and be an objective and honest observer of you and your impact on others, seek professional development opportunities
  8. Confront Reality: Confront concerns head on and directly with the person/people involved.
  9. Clarify Expectations: Give clear directions, set clear, realistic expectations and if you are the supervisor provide the support and resources needed to meet those expectations.
  10. Practice Accountability: A two-way street. Hold and be held accountable
  11. Listen First: Be quick to hear an slow to speak (Two ears, only one mouth)
  12. Keep Commitments: do what you say you are going to do, when you say you will do it.
  13. Extend Trust: Speak and write with good intention and when interpreting others words, assume good intention.
That last one is particularly interesting and important. You may have heard of “The Law of Sowing and Reaping.” The principle may go by other names as well but it means–You reap what you sow, you reap more than you sow, and you reap in a different season than you sow. It may seem counter-intuitive, but this law applies to trust. To receive and build trust, you have to give it. Sound risky? It is. But, the benefits of trust far outweigh the risks.

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