We hear a lot about trust-based cultures these days and I believe many feel that trust is a social virtue that is nice to have in an organisation because it makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That is definitely not the case. Trust plays a significant role in how employees feel, how they perform and how a company as a whole performs. Trust is also becoming a vital currency in an increasingly remote working culture. One study in 2015 by Interaction Associates shows that high-trust companies “are more than 2½ times more likely to be high performing revenue organizations” than low-trust companies.
Trust is absolutely critical to any organisation and as a leader and a manager, you need to be looking to help cultivate a trust-based culture to facilitate organisational success and improved individual performance.
With COVID-19 many of us have had to transition to remote working full time. To many, this has been a scary one. Surely we can’t be expected to just trust that our teams will be doing the work they should be doing, managing their time and delivering whilst in the comfort of their own homes?
It looks like remote work is here to stay and besides having the right tools in place, trust is going to be the biggest factor in making or breaking the happiness, productivity and value add of every team member.
With that in mind, let’s look at some tips to show and build trust in our teams.
Honesty is a good starting point for building trust. Have you had an experience where someone lies to your face and you know they are lying? Do you still trust that person? Probably not, or if you do now – they had to earn back your trust. If you are a leader or manager don’t lie to your team. Be honest and transparent, even when things are tough or not going as well. I try keep my team in the loop with everything going on and they appreciate that. If you aren’t honest, and you hide things or lie then it is more than likely that your team will follow suit. Set an example and a standard for them to follow.
I don’t think anything has built my trust in my boss more than when I lead a personality workshop and he opened up about his weaknesses. Vulnerability connects people. Sharing something, even if it’s small can really help to cement trust in your teams. Maybe you can start meetings by sharing what you did last night, how you spent your weekend, a bit about your family, or if you are having a hard day. I don’t believe that separation of personal and professional is always appropriate. You spend most of your life at work, working with people and you need a way to connect, get along and trust one another.
“Being vulnerable gets the static out of the way and lets us do the job together, without worrying or hesitating” – Jeff Polzer
3. Think positively
I think it’s quite easy for us to be negative about people. I have seen many organisations look so pessimistically at their employees working remotely. They are afraid to let go with their watchful eyes, they are afraid of being deceived by their employees. What they don’t realise is that this thinking has a massive impact on the morale of the workforce. Have you experienced someone not believing in you or trusting you? It makes you feel awful. Why would you then want to do your best for that person? You probably wouldn’t. Give people the benefit of the doubt, trust until they give you a reason not to. I’m sure there are some bad eggs but if you have got your hiring process right, trust that your people are able and willing to do their work. There have been occasions where I have had to do some micromanaging to ensure work was done but I did it with the aim of building up trust and autonomy again.
4. Lead by example
As with anything people will follow your lead, so if you want to build trust in your team through thinking positively, being vulnerable and honesty then you need to walk that line yourself. A study by Ferrin, D.L., Dirks, K.T. and Shah, P.P. (2006), “Direct and indirect effects of third-party relationships on interpersonal trust”, showed that trust propagates through people. So if give people a reason not to trust you, then they will inherently reduce the trust they have in those that you trust. The opposite is also true, so if you give people a reason to trust you they will trust those that you trust. Building trust can propagate through teams and organisations quickly and effectively if it is done right.
Trust doesn’t just show up, it needs to be nurtured and built up and it needs someone to take the first step. Make that someone, YOU.
One of the main points presented in The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey is that you cannot give trust if you haven’t built up trust in yourself. What does that even mean?
Well, Covey breaks building trust in yourself into 4 areas:
This ties in well with our first point of honesty. Whenever you get the chance to practice honesty and tell the truth – do it!
This is about questioning your motives and reshaping them to ones that are more admirable and good.
Are you a lifelong learner? Do you take opportunities to develop your skills even when you don’t need to? In my spare time, I am currently learning React.js and developing my exploring Cyber Security. Both of which currently has nothing to do with my day job!
You should strive to build up a track record that you can look back on and build up the confidence you have in yourself.
Trust is a key ingredient to effective and productive teams and profit. Don’t let this ‘soft’ value be neglected in your team or organisation. Build ways of working, frameworks, values and processes around it. Make it central to how you work and lead by example.
- Be honest. Don’t lie, don’t hide the truth – be as open as possible.
- Be vulnerable. Show you are human and allow people to empathise with you.
- Think positively. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Trust first, don’t make people “earn” it. Rather trust and see how people handle it.
- Lead by example. Lead the way in building up trust, in yourself and in your teams and organisation. Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.
This study done by Gallup shows that there is more than just building trust that impacts your team. It’s important but you need to look at other areas too. Your job as a manager and leader is to keep learning, growing and serving your organisation and it’s people.