By Harold Resnick
All relationships are based on trust. Trust makes it easier and faster to get business done. Trust is a characteristic we look for when choosing vendors and project associates.
Lack of trust in the work environment can be devastating. When employees do not trust their organizations or their managers, they become cynical. They reduce their commitment and work efforts to the minimum required for compliance, rather than the maximum that comes from true commitment.
Trust is essential for strong relationships, high performance, a culture of candor and long-term commitment. Yet a McKinsey study entitled “The War for Talent”, which surveyed 23,000 employees, revealed that only 20 percent of those questioned indicated that they fully trusted the organization in which they were employed.
To strengthen one’s reputation for being trustworthy, practice these six trust-building commitments:
1. Examine Your Own Intentions and Communicate Them
When people do not trust individuals or organizations, it is often because they do not trust their intentions. This is often seen vividly in the political arena. Politicians ask their constituencies to trust that they are working on behalf of their interests and those of the country. Yet the public rarely believes them, often with good justification.
In the work environment, employee feedback sessions to address behavioral issues are often fraught with tension and defensiveness. Yet, the manager who begins the feedback session with the stated intention of helping the employee succeed – rather than deliver punitive action or termination – has a much better opportunity to create an open environment in which positive behavioral changes can result.
The first step to gaining trust is to be clear about your own intentions and to share them with the other person.
2. Behave With Integrity
Integrity is the act of maintaining consistency through one’s beliefs and values, thoughts, words and deeds. Individuals who act with integrity are clear about their personal values, espouse those values and then act in accordance with them.
Lapses of integrity are quickly caught. Leaders who espouse that employees are their most important asset and then withhold raises from employees while distributing large bonuses to top executives are demonstrating a lack of integrity between words and deeds. Companies that claim they stand for customer service and then establish automated call centers that make it impossible for a customer to reach a live employee similarly reflect lack of integrity between words and actions.
3. Maintain Authenticity
Authenticity is one of the most fundamental conditions for creating trust. Authentic people have high self-awareness and share their true selves with others, characterized by candor and consistency. Individuals who are not authentic put up a false front. The problem is that everyone sees through the false front and does not trust either the individual or what they have to say. Lack of authenticity often comes from lack of self-confidence. It doesn’t work and destroys trust.
4. Honor Commitments
Honoring commitments is essential for building a trust-based relationship. Fulfilling promises reflects the integrity of thoughts, words and deed; it also demonstrates the competence and willingness to perform. Leaders who say they are going to do something – particularly if it requires a hard or courageous conversation or decision – and then fail to do so lose the trust of their employees. Honoring promises and commitments is one of the powerful ways to build trust.
5. Speak the Truth
“The Emperor has no clothes” is the classic example of the unwillingness of a group to speak the truth. Another common expression is “the elephant in the room.” When no one is willing to acknowledge the elephant in the room there is a lack of truthfulness in the environment. Speaking the truth is more than the absence of lying. It is speaking the whole truth even when the topic may be awkward. Individuals who are known to speak the truth – with thoughtfulness and sensitivity – become the most highly respected and trusted individuals in an organization.
For an individual to trust someone else they must believe that their thoughts and feelings will be treated with respect and dignity. Empathy – understanding how the other person is feeling – is the tool that generates this respect. When sensitive or emotional information is shared and handled with empathy the bonds of trust are enhanced.
When individuals are clear about their intentions, behave with integrity and authenticity, speak the truth and honor their commitments and promises, they create a trustworthy environment that generates honesty, high performance and accountability.