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Nine Ways to Build Trust



Alarmingly, a Gallup poll indicates that just 33% of employees strongly trust the leadership of their organization! Many organizations are now asking, “Do you trust your boss?” in 360◦ feedback interviews. They’ve found that the answer to this question is more predictive of team and organizational performance than any other.


Trust is a prime economic and organizational success driver. When trust is low, speed goes down and costs go up. Think of airport security post 9/11 and the dramatic effects on speed and cost. Conversely, when trust is high, speed goes up and cost comes down. It’s much faster and more cost effective, for instance, to obtain a new client by referral than it is to obtain a client through cold calling or marketing and advertising.

In trusting relationships, communication is open and direct with rewarding interactions. When trust is high, businesses and workplaces reap trust “dividends” such as goodwill, creativity, and productive teams. When trust is low, a trust “tax” is levied which can take the form of micromanagement, hidden agendas, and unhappy employees and clients.


What can be done to reap greater trust dividends?

The nine steps that follow will increase credibility and build or help restore trust: Keep commitments. Nothing boosts integrity faster than keeping commitments. Start with those you make to yourself. If you resolve to hit the gym three times a week or silence your cell phone during dinner, do it. If you can’t trust yourself, who will trust you? Stand for something. What do you stand for? What does your organization stand for? Write a personal statement of purpose; make sure you have a clear, compelling business mission statement. Then walk the talk.

Show that you have others’ interests at heart. Demonstrate genuine caring about people, quality and purpose to inspire greater levels of trust. This is why it was so important to a new CEO to meet with line employees to hear their concerns first before meeting with the leadership team that she inherited.


Act with integrity. Integrity does more than anything else to build credibility and trust. Self-serving behavior, whether in business, politics or personal interactions, is extraordinarily transparent and provokes suspicion and cynicism.


Continuously upgrade your skills and knowledge. What additional training or professional development opportunities would help you add value? Conferences, workshops, online publications, news articles and professional coaching offer a wealth of possibility.


Be forthcoming. Trust in public institutions, the press, and government is at historic lows. People want the truth, not some biased, shellacked or prettified version that obscures reality! In big business, only 19% of employees say they feel a great deal or quite a lot of trust. Communication is critical. In any organization, employees deserve to know the direction of the business and the importance of their role in driving objectives and addressing challenges.

Improve results. Are you producing activities or results? Activities don’t necessarily translate to results. How often is the pace unrelenting and hectic with few satisfying results to show at the end of the day?


Acknowledge disappointing results. When results fall short, be courageous enough to be vulnerable. Look for what can be learned rather than blaming colleagues or external conditions for the failure. Ask yourself, “What's my part in these results?” Own it.


Set the bar high. Be an example; expect a lot from yourself first. What is the highest and best use of your time? Focus on your strengths. Make sure you’re doing what you’re best at and using your time well. Only then can you credibly expect high performance from others.

Food for thought: What trust taxes are you or your organization paying?

What steps will you take to increase trust dividends?