Creating a culture of trust in your organization

Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team. – Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Trust
Noun

Firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. ‘relations have to be built on trust‘ – Oxford Dictionary

Trust is an attribute that takes months to build, but only moments to break. When it comes to people, intuition and experience are the two contributing factors for building trust. In an organization, employees typically consider experience (including their own and others with the company), ethics and values, before they decide if they can trust its leadership.

You may have great individual contributors, but is there a sense of trust established among your team? What are the signs that tell you whether or not there is trust within the team?

Do you and your team members:

  • Encourage constructive conflict
  • Drive for clear commitment
  • Keep communication channels open
  • Hold each other accountable – make an honest attempt to work towards organizational goals, and not individual goals?

When it comes to trust, there is no scope for a grey area. There is either 100% trust or there is none.

To create a culture of trust, here are some techniques that you can implement:

Share your story – If you believe in keeping things purely professional, it may not lead to relationship building. We need to form the habit of not just being task- oriented but of becoming relationship oriented. You don’t really have to get involved in revealing intense stories, but just sharing what stirs you as an individual is a good start. You may choose to talk about your hobbies, your passions, or what keeps you motivated, etc.

Team building exercises – Talk about the strengths and areas each team member could work on. That way, each team member is provided with a list of positive attributes as well as constructive feedback that they can implement and work on. These exercises are better conducted in a controlled environment (by professionals) to ensure maximum impact.

Personality and behavioral preference profiles – Behavioral tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) help teams to understand how individual contributes and works in solitary and team settings. These tests provide you with insight into why you value certain types of information over others. With that valuable knowledge about yourself, you can learn how to “flex” into other ways of thinking and adapt to others – how they think, what they value, how they communicate – so you can bridge the gap, quickly.

Lead by example – To build trust among the team members, you need to model the behavior you want to see. Be reliable. Stick to your promises. Put your trust in others and offer the benefit of the doubt where possible. Extend the same regard that you yourself would want to receive in their place. Expecting trust while not demonstrating the same can tear down values and be the downfall of your team.

Encourage learning moments – Imagine this. You are learning how to play guitar. After taking a few lessons, you try strumming. Your coach immediately yells saying, ‘Is this all we’ve achieved in the past few weeks? Is this the best you’ve got?” Not exactly the kind of comments that will encourage you to try out more, and experiment a little with your style, right? Instead of this humiliating feedback, how about if your coach had asked you, “So, what happened there? Why do you think it sounded a little off? How can we make it better?” These are the moments, the comments, that will encourage people to take chances and explore on their own initiative. Don’t treat mistakes like they are the end of the world. To build trust and foster better working relationships with others, encourage these moments.

Don’t focus on metrics only – We agree that eventually numbers are what matters, but, sometimes in our need to focus on numbers, we forget that we are dealing with humans. Instead of going by pure statistics, you need to build up on small behavioral indicators, to see whether trust resides deep in your team and company.

Some attributes to look out for:

  • Do people hold each other accountable when they see someone not exhibiting the tell-tale signs of trust?
  • Do they use ‘I’ and ‘You’ or do they talk the ‘We’ language?
  • Do employees feel safe talking candidly about their experiences working with the company?

If you see someone not aligning with the company’s values, open up a forum for safe discussion and call them out. Understand what drives their behavior and try to fix the situation.

The most critical thing in creating trust within your organization is to start with yourself, before extending it to your team/ department, and then take measures to spread it to the entire company. Talk about your team’s successes, how did they improve productivity, and culture, etc. Give people tangible results and they will then be willing to replicate it.

So, what steps are you willing to take to create trust in your company?
End-notes:

  1. Hermann International website herrmannsolutions.com
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