Establishing Trust in an Organisation

In most people’s opinion, trust is one of those things that is generally hard earned over a long period of time.

How do you establish it quickly, however, if you are trying to get the best out of your team? For managers this is an important question, especially when they need deliver on the company’s high expectations.

Trust is something that seems to have been in decline in recent years. For instance, the crash of 2008 led to a loss of trust in financial markets. Recent changes in the political landscape have made us question our leaders. Lack of trust appears to be all around us.

For most things in a business there is something concrete to measure and analyse. You can look at the daily and weekly sales figures, for example. You can decide if one team is outperforming another.

That’s not the same with trust. It can be highly individual, slightly ethereal and notoriously difficult to quantify. The only thing we know is that lack of trust can impinge on every aspect of the workplace. It can lower morale, reduce productivity, lead to fraudulent practices and arguments.

Companies and their leaders need to treat trust as a competency just like any other management skill. According to business leader and Speed of Trust advocate Stephen M R Covey, high trust businesses have been shown to outperform low trust ones to the tune of some 300%. It can actually be learned and used in the work environment and has a big impact on productivity and success.

Building trust is not easy if you don’t have the personal characteristics to accompany it. You need integrity, of course. Without that, your staff will quickly realise they can’t rely on you implicitly. You also need to back that up with your own key competencies and skills which allow you to operate in the work environment. In other words, you need to be good at your job.

Character is vitally important in this mix and has consequences for the success of a business. It’s easier than you think for a leader to make a business case for adding trust to the operational brief. It’s a lot more difficult sometimes to make it a clear objective, however.

How do you measure it? How do you nurture it in your staff and, more importantly, your managers?

Trust needs to be developed at a personal level, it’s not something that an organisation can have by right and stick front of house. The people involved in managing and leading teams need to have it as part of their individual makeup. And, when it works successfully, four clear components tend to come together.

  • You have a manager who possesses integrity.
  • They show intent and understand what their role is.
  • They have the skills and ability to make them capable in their role.
  • They get results more often than not.

There are a wide range of different behaviours that help demonstrate these components. Trustworthy managers, for instance, tend to talk straight and are honest, whether it’s a good or bad situation. They respect staff at all levels and don’t automatically expect loyalty but show it themselves. They tend to listen first before expressing their point of view and they keep to their commitments. If they say they are going to do something they do it.

Certainly those in management should not expect blind trust from their own employees. Any manager needs lead in that respect and essentially make the first step. Trust it’s not a thing that you are born with or which is part of your natural DNA. It’s something you can learn to do and implement as long as you consider it as a core competency rather than an ineffable characteristic that can’t be defined.


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