Developing Your Talent


Trust: The Bedrock of Great Companies

By James Greenway on January 10, 2014

It’s often said that trust takes “years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.” While trust is fundamental to meaningful personal relationships, it’s equally important as the bedrock of a successful organization. A culture of trust impacts every department and informs every interaction between clients, employees, vendors and the community. Too often, however, trust is viewed by management as a touchy-feely intangible that has little bearing on bottom-line business results.

In his article, “(Almost) Everything We Think About Employee Engagement is Wrong,” Dov Seidman cites a study of 36,000 employees that concludes, “When trust, values and a purpose-driven mission exist to a statistically significant degree and guide leadership, decision-making and behavior … [they give] rise to a highly inspired group of super-engaged employees.” Inasmuch as trust is inexorably linked to employee engagement, rather than denying its importance, organizations would be wise to focus on its development.

Here are a few of the hallmarks of organizational trust. How do your leaders measure up?

  • Respect. Leaders who bully or demean create anxiety-ridden teams that are easily discouraged and disengaged. When employees are fearful, they’ll be reluctant to try something new and less likely to offer suggestions for improved processes, procedures, products, services—the lifeblood of dynamic organizations.
  • Inclusion. Trust is developed when employees are provided insight into the direction of the business and how their roles will help the organization achieve key performance objectives. Educating your team on why important decisions were made and soliciting their feedback opens communication, conveys respect, and promotes engagement.
  • Accessibility. Senior leaders should break out of the executive suite and engage in impromptu conversations with employees from all levels of the organizations. Managers who make an effort to listen carefully and demonstrate interest in employees’ ideas and interests build a culture of trust. In order to engage employees, you have to know what makes them tick.
  • Authenticity. Employees recognize feigned interest, insincere compliments, exaggerated promises and veiled incompetence. Managers display integrity and earn trust by meeting commitments, delegating fairly, maintaining confidences, communicating honestly and professionally, and leading by example.
  • Accountability. Great companies understand that trust is a shared responsibility: employees must trust that their leaders are committed to making sound decisions in the best interests of the organization and that they are willing to provide employees with essential information, training and resources. In exchange, employees must take charge of their own development, manage their own performance, and set personal goals.

Trust is the bedrock of all great companies and it’s the natural result of turning intangibles into observable behaviors that inspire confidence, purpose and performance.

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