Trust: Go Beyond Engagement

October 14th, 2012

Trust. A five letter word with so much meaning, so much importance, and quite frankly, so much power. Does your organization have high trust levels? Why does that matter? Trust is not merely a “nice to have” anymore, it is an important component of your strategic future. Current research shows the direct correlation between high trust levels, high engagement levels, and bottom line results.

A recent article in Training Magazine by Linda Stewart, CEO of Interaction Associates noted “High trust organizations are able to get their people to go beyond engagement (a focus on their jobs only) to involvement ( sharing responsibility for the success of the organization). This is a critical shift for companies looking to drive strong results in today’s organizations.”

Three critical factors that help build the levels of trust that promote not just involvement, but engagement:

1. Transparency. A buzzword, yes. But so often talked about because of the importance of transparent people, transparent operations and even transparent organizations. The topic is so hot that clear office walls, no walls, and open office spaces are back in vogue. While office space that promotes transparency is nice, it won’t do the trick if people aren’t able to come clean. To use an old saying, it is critical that leaders operate with an open kimono—willing to show and share the truth about themselves, their operations and their organizations—no matter how risky, ugly or unappealing!

2. Strong signals. Most of us mistakenly believe our trustworthiness is obvious. It is not. We actually need to signal it more clearly. By the same token, we have to react strongly when trust is abused. Sending weak signals about your willingness to engage or react when trust is breached makes you and others more vulnerable to exploitation.

3. Ask. Remember that famous scene from Titanic, where Jack and Rose are at the tip of the ship and Jack asks Rose “Do you trust me?” The same thing needs to happen inside our organizations. Not sure about the levels of trust in your organization? A simple way to get the conversation (and work) about trust started is to ask. Some examples of what to ask:

a. Where would you rate the level of trust within our organization on a 1 to 10 scale (one being nonexistent and 10 being excellent)?

b. Why did you rate as you did?

c. What would it take to get to a 10?

Trust allows everyone from the top, down to front line employees, to feel they have skin in the game – a term coined by Warren Buffet. In Buffett’s world, “skin in the game” refers to a situation in which high-ranking insiders use their own money to buy stock in the companies they run. The idea behind creating this situation was — and is — to ensure that corporations are managed by like-minded individuals who share a stake in the company. You can encourage employees to have more skin in the game – to invest their energy, dedication and commitment – by investing your time and energy into building more trust.

For more ways to measure and build trust in your team or organization, give us a call.