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Don’t Discount the Importance of Trust in Business

As we wrap this CONNECT2Lead series on the 12 Dimensions of Trust, we’d be remiss if we didn’t reiterate the importance of trust in business.

Graphic Showing Handshake Male and FemaleIn business, trust isn’t some optional, nice-to-have, occasional perk. Trust is essential. It’s the lifeblood of success and the currency of workplace relationships. Trust accelerates decisions and innovation. It enhances communication and collaboration.

By contrast, a pervasive distrust within any business can be devastating. Employee morale suffers without the confidence that comes in knowing you can trust your colleagues. Things move slower when mistrust leads to micromanaging, double checking, delayed decisions, and inaction.    

The Links between Trust, Employee Engagement, and Business Success  

This excerpt from What Makes a Great Employer, by Mark Feffer, says it all. Let’s take it in four parts.

Trust Is Correlated with Employee Engagement

“Great places to work have high levels of trust and engagement.” 

Like salt and pepper, they travel together. Employees are more engaged when the trust their managers and employers. They’re also more engaged when they feel trusted by managers and employers.    

2-Way Trust Is Required

“Trust goes both ways: Employees have an implicit trust in leaders to make the right decisions for the organization - including its people - while leaders trust employees to put the organization’s needs first as they interact with customers, vendors and partners.”

Trust is a 2-way street. It’s reciprocal. The outdated, patriarchal systems of top-down management and mistrust no longer work. Employees have more options and aren’t afraid to explore them. They won’t put up with feeling “under the microscope” or mistrusted at work.  

Leaders Proactively Demonstrate Their Trust in Employees

“Leaders demonstrate that trust by clearly communicating about the company’s challenges as well as its successes and by pushing decision-making power downward.  That trust contributes greatly to a sense of engagement.”

Openness is just one of the 12 Dimensions of Trust. But it is an important one when it comes to earning employees’ trust and engagement. Openness about the state of business creates a sense of belonging and conveys that “we’re all in this together.” 

Stronger Employee Contributions Lead to Business Success

“Armed with a clear view of the state of the business, invested in the company’s success and loyal to their colleagues, workers see themselves as being a part of something greater—the company’s mission and its values.”

With a sense of belonging and being a part of something bigger, employees are more likely to be highly engaged in their work. They’ll be less likely to leave and will apply additional discretionary effort to the work they do. 

Without trust, none of this is possible. It’s not sustainable to rely on command-and-control authority tactics. 

If Trust Has Been Damaged, Do the Repair Work

It will be awkward, uncomfortable, difficult, and NECESSARY to restore trust. 

Oftentimes, once trust has been broken, the parties involved reach an uneasy truce. Rather than resolving the issue, they take a guarded approach going forward. They accept that there’s something in between them, but they don’t work on fixing it. Each blames the other, and that uneasiness becomes the norm. 

But at what cost?

It doesn’t have to be that way. Despite the discomfort of deliberately working to rebuild trust, the payoff is worth it. Whether the lingering tensions are in 1-to-1 relationships or across entire teams, these steps will help you restore trust.

  1. Do a root-cause analysis using the 12 Dimensions of Trust. Download this free tool from People First Productivity Solutions. Use it to diagnose what caused the feelings of mistrust. Use it to self-assess and to assess those you don’t fully trust so you can understand what’s in the way.
  2. Reset the emotional tone. Set aside personal feelings and let down your guard. Be objective, even clinical, as you reach out to matter-of-factly state your desire to open a healing conversation and understand what’s needed for a reset. Keep emotions out of it so you can logically and rationally discuss what’s happened and how to move past it.
  3. Share responsibility. This problem could be founded in misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or miscommunication. There are two parties involved in each, and both parties bear responsibility for how the message was conveyed and how it was received. Who cares who’s to blame? That won’t solve the problem. Looking forward and owning your part of the problem will serve you better.
  4. Find common ground. Maybe you don’t see eye-to-eye. You have different styles, different perspectives, and competing goals. You’ve also got some mutual interests – if for no other reason than you work for the same organization. Move past all the differences and focus on the common ground. 
  5. Build Your Relational Agility.  This is the advanced-level of finding common ground. The overlap between your own needs, the needs of others, and the needs of the organization can give you great clarity in focusing on the right things. Zoom out so you can see it all and won’t remain hyper-focused on the small stuff.   

To rebuild trust, you’ve got to be willing to give people a second chance. If the offense wasn’t egregious enough to cause a separation from the organization, then it can’t be so big that you can’t offer grace. 

The Importance of Trust in Business Can’t be Overstated 

Without trust, the environment is toxic. With trust, the culture and workplace liberate all-in contributions. 

Without trust, engagement suffers. People leave (or stay but aren’t giving their all). With trust, employees contribute at higher levels. 

Without trust, finger-pointing and blame create deep divides. With trust, people bond and collaborate. 

Without trust, there’s a palpable sense of suspicion and doubt. No one wants to take risks or voice their opinions. With trust, there’s a sense of excitement and a freedom to innovate and offer ideas. 

Without trust, an us/them mentality shores up silos and builds barricades between teams. With trust, synergies are discovered and unleash continual improvements. 

There are no downsides to improving trust in the workplace. 

Ultimately, higher levels of trust improve every aspect of work. 

Take the plunge. Work to proactively repair and preserve trust between teams, team members, manager/employee groups, and the organization overall.