Leadership Within – Trust is Everything

Trust is an Emotional Response to a logical Framework.”

In other words, we can predict, create lose and gain trust. This is quite simply done through the behaviours we exhibit to others or others exhibit to us. Similarly, someone can appear trustworthy to you, when they meet your criteria for feeling the emotion of trust. 

Why is this important?

First a bit of background: An Ipsos–Reid [i] survey  of 13,000 workers in all job levels and industries revealed that fewer than two out of five employees in corporate America had trust or confidence in their senior leaders. Trust also decreases in times of economic crises and increases in times of affluence, due to perceptions of job stability that accompanies a strong economy.

Why is it important? There is Money in Trust.

I was speaking a few years back at a large hospital in the US, providing to their management team a seminar entitled: Trust in Workplace. As I sat through the opening remarks and morning sessions it became clear to me that we had an opportunity to build a great outcome for this client.  The President of the Hospital at the time spoke through the morning about the finances of health care in the states. He eloquently addressed how they had been struggling to retain great medical staff, as other hospitals lured the best away. He spoke about the underlying feeling of family at a smaller Hospital. He spoke, (unknowingly) about some of the contributing aspects or values of Trust.

As I sat through more morning sessions listening to the leaders speak, I flipped open my laptop, opened mu turnover cost calculator (a Handy tool I built to measure the real cost of turnover) and inputted some numbers. When I got up to speak, I noted that by reducing turnover 10% they could save 400,000 dollars in a single year. How, I asked, could they help reduce turnover? By building Trust.

What does low trust look like?

An organizational lack of trust can be the result of perceived incompetence, lack of effective direction, poor past management or managers, or a sense that the organization is floating on its past accomplishments. A loss of trust can be devastating to an organization’s overarching performance. When team members lack confidence in management or the organization: productivity falls, turnover increases, rumors spread and cynicism sets in, resulting in an erosion of employee initiative.

Leaders have both a responsibility and opportunity to work with their teams to build supportive trust throughout the organization, that is resilient to the ebbs and flows of external influences. This building process can be greatly accelerated when leaders clearly bridge corporate needs and personal values, provide clear expectations of performance, and consistently apply a sound performance management framework.

How do I know if my team feels like they work in a trusting workplace?

  • Attitude, is the attitude they exhibit with management,
  • Connectivity is how they connect with others (behaviour type),
  • Conduct is the way they conduct themselves with others,
  • Consideration is how they treat those around them, or the generosity of the organization,
  • Competence is what you see at the output stage of projects.

I developed the above chart as a self assessment tool for managers. It identifies behaviours that you will see exhibited in your workplace. If you are operating a highly trusting workplace, you will see those behaviours on the left exhibited. If your workplace is not trusting, you will see the behaviours on the right. Somewhere in the middle is where most of us operate.

What is a Trust Matrix?

This “framework” is constructed from your expectations, experiences, and your logically filtered observations, and is based upon your Value set (What you see as most valuable to you as an employee, manager, partner, etc.).

Your Value set is that construct of abstract or concrete concepts that form the base upon which all of your beliefs, actions and character is formed. (we will address Values next time).

How do we understand what is required to feel that we trust someone else?

Think about your most trusting relationship, consider what actions or behaviours that person has exhibited that you think are important.  I’ll give you an example: I have a friend I met when I was 20. He gave me something I never had before: a feeling of being part of an accepting family. He treated me kindly, steered me in the right direction when I veered, helped me make good decisions, and welcomed me into his family.  For this relationship my Trust Matrix was: Acceptance, Respect, Kindness, Mentoring.

Similarly, you can define your relationships and what you need to see from them in order to feel Trust.

What do you need to see (behaviours) for your employees to be considered trustworthy?  

What do you need to see (behaviours) for your partner to be trusted?

What do you need to see from your friends?

I short terms, we often say “name” has our back. However, in practical terms we can assess what that means and look for it in others. This provides us with the understanding of why we feel more trusting with some people than others. It allows us to logically assess what we need to see in order to get more comfortable trusting people.

As an employer, if you don’t have a great relationship with your employee(s) then it may be time to start asking why. You may find that you are not exhibiting behaviours they are seeking, and that may be stopping them from trusting you. or vice versa, they may not be meeting your needs in regards to actions or behaviours.

When strong trust exists in the workplace, the net benefits can put more positive in your bottom line:

  • Employees connect at a higher level with the organization
  • Better mistakes are made
  • Better decisions emerge
  • Communication is dynamic
  • Rumors disappear
  • Attitudes improve
  • Productivity rises
  • Service levels increase
  • Employees advance in their careers
  • Leadership and effective delegation become commonplace
  • Negotiations are positive
  • Performance management focuses on future

It is always worth digging into the psychology of leadership, in order to understand why we do what we do and to learn from our mistakes. Trust is one of a suite of frameworks that allows you to build a better corporate model, a stronger team who work well together. At the end of your journey,

I believe that is our common goal as leaders, to build people up, in order to live a better life. and lets be honest, it always feels good when someone can say:  “I know you got my back.”  

[i] Ipsos-Reid survey of employee trust: 2003.