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Trust is a key component in creating team synergy.  A team cannot share ideas openly, work without fear of judgment, be vulnerable and most importantly take risk if they don’t have trust. Without trust employees remain reserved and suspicious.  This is where gossip begins and fractures build into chasms.  

Building, enhancing, and repairing trust are elements of a continuous cycle teams go through to maintain synergy.  

Proof of Trust

According to the Eldeman group, who have been studying trust in workplaces for the last 20 years, trust decreases from top positions down the organizational chart. For example, 64% of executives trust their organizations while only 51% of managers and 48% of staff trust their companies. What the research shows is the further the distance an employee is from top leadership the lower their trust. 

Benefits of trust for organizations is solidly researched and documented. The following are a few of the major gains for creating a culture of trust:

  • High-trust organizations had a return to their shareholders 286% higher than low-trust (Watson Wyatt
  • Companies on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for” list produced more than 4 times the gains of the broad market over the last seven years (Russell Investment Group)
  • Workplaces with high employee trust boast 50% higher productivity, 106% more energy, and 13% fewer sick days (Gallup
  • Harvard Business Review published an article by Tony Simons, The High Cost of Lost Trust (2002) where the results of 6,500 hotel employees were asked to rate their manager’s behavioral integrity on a 5-point scale. Results were so strongly in support of trust being a predictor of profits that a one-eighth point improvement in a particular’s hotel score increased profit’s by more than $250,000 per year for each hotel. 

And the most important stat…

  • 74% less stress, 40% less burnout, and 29% more satisfaction when working at a high-trust organization (HBR)

Distrust Factors:

– Breaks Promises

– Serves own interests

– Conflicting actions

– Avoids topics

– Makes assumptions

– Doubts others

Ways to Build and Enhance Trust

Now that the facts prove the importance of trust in organizations, the next steps are to build, role model, and maintain trust. Follow the confirmed ways to build trust.

Common Threads

Research shows our level of trust with someone is equal to the number of common threads we have between us.  For example, when you meet a new client you both are going through a psychological and emotional process of categorizing each other.  It’s the ultimate ‘sizing up.’  As you uncover more information about one another it either reinforces or inhibits the trust sense.   As the common threads pile up (kids of similar age, live in the same neighborhood, attend the same organizations, have the same values) the trust sense grows exponentially.  

To build trust you have to spend time and conduct activities that encourage sharing. If you can articulate the common threads you have with each of your team members you’re on your way to building team synergy. 

Say what you mean, mean what you say

Another way to build and enhance trust is to say what you mean and mean what you say. When you force people to read between the lines or interpret your speech, it triggers a warning that causes an unsettling feeling. The brain marks the emotion and what is causing the red flag, putting you as the threat.

Trust means there is fairness in what you are saying while having congruency in your words and actions. Some examples would be keeping promises, adhering to scheduled commitments, arriving on time, delivering on what you stated, accurately describing a situation, and honoring roles, policies, procedures. 

Examples of Distrust

– People say they want your opinion and then criticize you when you provide it

– You follow a policy, and your manager reprimands you for the outcome

– You give your child a 5-minute warning and let them go longer than 5-minutes

– Drivers consistently roll through a particular stop sign so you are cautious when you approach

– A friend makes plans with you and often cancels at the last minute

There are levels to trust that people accept when it comes to this element. You might tolerate a friendship where your friend often backs out of plans but not if they show up late, leaving you to wonder if they are coming at all. An employee could put up with a manager being inconsistent with how friendly she is with different staff but not how she has varying standards for which she holds people accountable. 

So, what to do? It’s important we ask people how they view trust and what values define trust for them. It’s sounds like this, “I’m curious, when you trust someone, what characteristics does that person have?” 

Respect the person, not the role

Titles (ie- CEO, president, pastor) and labels (ie- mother, neighbor, celebrity) in our society seem to inherently come with rules on how to treat and interact with those having the status. This doesn’t build trust, nor respect, only compliance. 

Trust becomes present when we value everyone’s uniqueness regardless of position/title/label and it is reciprocated. Managers asking not to be interrupted and offer the same to their employees, parents being part of the no-name-calling rule, neighbors talking directly to other neighbors about weed control instead of submitting complaints to the HOA are ways in our daily lives that trust is cultivated. 

Be vulnerable in key moments.

According to Brene Brown, leading researcher, the definition of vulnerability is “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” In her book Daring Greatly, Brown talks about those essential situations when vulnerability arises and you get an unstable feeling when you step out of your comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control. To stay in the space and hold those emotions takes strength! 

Our instinctive reaction is to bounce away from uncomfortable, uncontrollable situations. Ahhh…but when you do stay in them you bring yourself and others around you to the opportunity to build, experience, and enhance trust. Be brave, be strong, be vulnerable and trust is your result. 

Curiosity, not judgment

When judging you make assumptions about others, especially their intentions, and expect the worst of them. You can jump to conclusions by not considering others’ viewpoints or checking facts. Ultimately you limit the response people give you and rob them of the fair chance to prove or correct themselves.

There is a simple shift of behaviors that builds and enhances trust; increase genuine curiosity. Asking open-ended questions that begin with who, what, where, when, and how are the right ways to start an engaging conversation. These are called Empowering Questions and build/enhance trust by helping parties connect authentically. 

Take risks together

Taking risks brings out all sorts of emotions that we often do not want others to see within us. Fear, failure, weakness, hesitation, and other insecurities flood our actions and thoughts during times of risk. Risk taking can be some of the most exposed states we can find ourselves. Sharing these deep, soul-touching experiences with someone else creates a bond that can go beyond mere trust. 

Remember, taking risks is an inside definition, not an outside observation. Meaning that if you feel you are taking a risk, let’s say telling someone you love them or asking for a raise, then it’s a risk. Those examples might be very easy for someone else while jumping out of a plane or public speaking is taking a risk for them. It’s important to let people know this is a risk-based situation by saying, “I’m taking a risk by…” or “This is a risk for me…” or even “You might not see this as risky, but it feels that way to me.” 

Transparency at all times

I was looking for a doggy day-camp for my loveable gal and I called a few places around me. Two required an appointment for a tour and one said I could come in anytime during open hours. Which of the places do you think I’m already starting to trust more? Yup, the one always offering complete transparency.

Transparency is about being honest and open so that the result is true clarity. It’s about being seen and seeing people, situations, places, times for exactly who and what they are without our own lens of assumptions, interpretations, and filters. Transparency isn’t scheduled like an appointment, it’s a living style in which we brighten the world.

Key Takeaways

Building, enhancing, and repairing trust are elements of a continuous cycle teams go through to maintain synergy. A mountain of facts proves the importance of trust in organizations, the next steps are to build, role model, and maintain trust. Follow the confirmed ways to build trust.

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