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Leadership Environments of Trust

Who Do You Trust and Why?

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An environment of trust affects every part of change management, communications, decision making, problem solving, and team synergy; it is a fundamental part of an organization’s culture. Trust is not easy to build, especially with individuals and teams that are under stress and struggling to meet personal and professional goals. Moreover, building trust is not a one-time deal. Trust must be earned over and over and may not spill over from one situation to the next—you may trust a team member to bring a project in on time but not to report on progress without frequent requests.


Building Trust in Person

An associate professor at Kellogg School of Management has identified four components that inspire trust:

  • Benevolence: You demonstrate kindness.
  • Integrity: You show a strong set of ethics.
  • Competence: You have the skills, knowledge, and ability to get things done.
  • Predictability: You behave consistently.

To that list, many people add the ability to give honest compliments, admit mistakes, and show feelings in a way that is emotionally intelligent.


Resistance to Trust

The ability to trust varies from person to person; so even if you demonstrate all of the above characteristics, you may still be unable to influence another person’s level of trust. Culture, gender, appearance, childhood experience, and age all have an effect on trust. 

Psychologists have identified two types of trust:

  • Cognitive: based on prior knowledge and evidence
  • Affective: based on emotion.

The emphasis a person places on each of these types of trust will also affect their ability to trust you.


Building Trust Online

All of the trust-building theories above assume you are developing trust in person, but how do you inspire trust online or remotely, among your customers, business partners, or employees? 

The size of a company has major influence on how trustworthy it appears. According to an article in Comstocks Magazine, 62% of people in the United States believe corporate corruption is wide spread—they do not trust companies. That statistic may have something to do with the fact that only a third of employees work for large or very large companies and that corporations make up only 5 percent of business but earn 62 percent of revenues. That situation creates a great disconnect between corporations and the people who do business with them.

The information above came from online sources. They might be considered trustworthy sources because they have the following characteristics in common:

  • Benevolence: They are willing to help people with information or in the way they do business.
  • Integrity: They don’t hide mistakes and they deliver what they promise.
  • Competence: They are repeatedly cited by others as a reputable authority; outsiders and employees review the company, product, or service positively.
  • Predictability: They provide consistent content online.
  • Personalization: They recognize that trust is easier to develop when people know the faces behind the company and are able to interact with the company online; that is one reason video has become so prevalent online.

Nevertheless, the Pew Research Center points out that “the internet was not designed with security protections or trust problems in mind.” In a survey of 1,233 individuals, 24% percent expected that online trust will diminish in the future. The respondents that expect trust to increase or stay the same cite new technologies, government intervention, a generational shift in expectations, and a change in the nature of trust itself. 

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