The Power of Trust
According to a recent survey from Deloitte, 50% of employees who distrust their senior leaders are considering leaving their organizations, with 62% percent reporting that low trust causes unreasonable levels of stress. According to workplace consultancy Tolero Solutions, 45% of employees state that lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting work performance.
Harvard researcher Paul Zak, Founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and Professor of Economics, Psychology, and Management at Claremont Graduate University, and author of The Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performing Companies, has invested decades researching the neurological connection between trust, leadership, and organizational performance.
Over two decades of research, Zak discovered that “compared with people at low-trust companies, people with high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout."
So how do you build a culture of trust? Here are a few ideas you can implement.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Be comfortable with some level of uncertainty and ambiguity. Understand you are experimenting to learn rather than produce immediate results. This demonstrates you are willing to make changes based on the potential learning value to the organization.
1) Loosen the reins.
Give up some control and give employees flexibility around their work patterns, environment, and habits. Relinquishing control also means expanding tolerance for mistakes and allowing employees to learn and grow.
A CitiGroup and LinkedIn survey found that nearly half of employees would forfeit a 20% raise for greater control of their work environment. When you create a culture of flexibility and trust, you enable people to decide when, where, and how best to work.
Ask if you could we design a work environment where people could pick the type of projects they would like to be involved in. This will help you understand who wants to be engaged vs. disengaged in the organization. Plus, recognize people publicly when they do a great job, and this will inspire others.
2) Be transparent and communicate openly.
Communicating honestly and with transparency is an essential tenet of trust. Thorough and frequent communication is one of the easiest ways to gain employee trust and loyalty.
People want to know what the company is doing, where it is going, and how they are impacted. Be creative in how you communicate and solicit feedback from employees. Break barriers in allowing individuals to connect with each other in the organization outside of traditional methods.
Deep relationships and bonds will be built over the course of time. Connected leaders show caring and concern for people, which builds trust and engages the workforce. Recognition is a vital component of being a connected leader, and praising and rewarding employees’ contributions builds trust and goodwill.
3) Demonstrate vulnerability.
Asking for help is a two-way street. Emotionally connected leaders let their employees know that they need their employees' help to build the best organizations possible.
An engaged workforce that is unified around a shared purpose helps build trust within a company. Start with shared mission – a shared goal. No one has all the answers, and that’s okay, but being honest about the things you do not know can help to establish your credibility.
Employees need to feel safe to share their ideas. We are multi-dimensional and most of us are interested in personal and professional development. A believable leader acts with integrity by dealing with people in an honest fashion and having a clear set of values. Walk the talk.
Creating these types of changes in your organization is not only be a mindset - it requires a daily commitment and deliberate action. Many organizations need to create direct communication, focus groups, and employee committees to better understand what their employees want and need. Enable your employees to help shape your programs as they continue to evolve.
Demonstrating a genuine interest and making this type of investment builds trust with employees. Leaders must continuously be mindful of their words and behaviors or risk losing trust in one ill-conceived moment.
Trust is a powerful leadership skill. Leaders who have the trust of their employees are more likely to drive change that impacts organizational performance. Building a culture of trust starts at the top and requires a candid and transparent approach to leadership.
Heather Johnson is a partner with Chartwell Partners.
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