Building and sustaining trust

Trust is an essential ingredient in successful workplaces.  When I’m working with a team that has high mutual trust we work more smoothly, more quickly, and toward better results.  Equally important, when things don’t go as hoped, a high-trust team is more easily able to learn from the experience and move forward.

One of the challenges for leaders is how to build and sustain trust.  As new leaders quickly discover, it isn’t something that can be accomplished and marked off the “to do” list.  It takes a longer time than you might think to build trust, a shorter time than you might wish to destroy trust, and a high level of attention to maintaining it.

A recent article in Fast Company gave three excellent suggestions for building and maintaining trust.

Involve people in decisions that directly affect them.

  • When people are involved they are more likely to support the decision, even if it wasn’t their preferred choice.
  • If you’ve already made the decision, and you’re not open to changing your mind, don’t go through the motions of bringing people into the process; they’ll just feel conned.
  • Treating people as capable adults shows you trust them to be part of good decisions. They’ll trust you more in return.

Be transparent and consistent in your actions.

  • Understanding how a decision was made, and the thought process behind that decision, can have a huge impact on how people feel about the decision.
  • For example, in one study, employees who understood how their performance bonus was determined were more satisfied than employees who received more money, but didn’t know how the bonus had been determined.

Pay attention to relationships.

  • People join companies but leave managers.
  • If people trust you to understand what matters to them, it makes a huge difference in their engagement.

Think back on leaders who have built a high level of trust in groups you’ve worked with?  Did they demonstrate these three behaviors?  How?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Source:  Atkins, A. (August 7, 2012).  How Leaders Build Trust.  Fast Company.


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