Trust, what is it good for? Absolutely everything.

May 27, 2014 By David Hasenbalg - No Comments
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Part 1 of a 2 part series.

“Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work”. – Warren Bennis

I coach senior leaders in organizations across many industries. When I start a new engagement I always explore the climate of trust in the organization for 2 reasons. 1. Organizations can’t produce breakthrough results unless people work well together. 2. People don’t work well together unless there is a culture of trust. Sadly, the first response I generally hear when I ask leaders about trust is something similar to, “I think HR is doing something about employee satisfaction.” Or I get, “that’s nice if we have time, but frankly, I’m too busy producing results.”

Let’s be clear. Trust in organizations isn’t an “HR issue.” It isn’t a side project, and it certainly isn’t optional. The climate of trust in your organization sits squarely at the heart of the results you produce every day.

If your organization is anything like those who participated in a recent American Psychological Society study, there is a good chance that missing trust is a challenge for you.

According to the study:

  • Just over half (52%) of employed adults believe their employer is open and upfront with them.
  • About one in three (32%) reports that their employer is not always honest and truthful
  • About one-quarter (24%) goes as far as to say they don’t trust their employer

That is a stinging indictment about trust in today’s workplace.

It begs the question: What is trust? According to Charles Feltman, “Trust is choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” By extension, distrust is the belief that something I value is not safe with another person.

That is a crucial point for leaders to understand. At its core, trust requires care and vulnerability on both the part of the leader and the people being led. There is reward for those who are willing to embrace that vulnerability.

  • 60% of the criteria identifying FORTUNE Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For “ is based on Trust as the “primary defining characteristic.”
  • In a Watson Wyatt study, high trust organizations had a total return to shareholders that was 286% higher than low-trust organizations over the long term

The business case is clear. Trust delivers to the bottom line.

The leadership challenge may feel scary and probably contributes to why so many leaders push trust off to others to worry about.

In part 2 of this series, we will explore:

  1. How trust helps teams perform at high levels
  2. How leaders can build trust with those they are leading
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