Trust – the key ingredient for employee engagement.

Leaders know that high levels of trust are required to get the best from their organisation, yet creating a culture of trust can be a challenge for many organisations who are beset with well embedded working practises and bureaucratic processes that do little to help. Leaders understand the stakes, at least in principle. In its 2016 global CEO survey PWC reported that 55% of all CEO’s think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organisations growth. Yet most have done little to increase trust, mainly because they are not sure where to start.

In his Harvard Business Review article ‘The Neuroscience of Trust’ – Paul Zak proves, through scientific experiment, that the chemical Oxytocin is the hormone released by the brain responsible for the feeling of trust we experience when we actually trust someone. So the solution is simple, inject everyone with Oxytocin! I have a feeling that several people, including the police, may object to this so I am not intending taking a hormone filled syringe around with me anytime soon! There are however several behaviours leaders can adopt that will help engender trust in the people around them and in the organisation as a whole. Here are a few to consider:

The first is to behave with genuine sincerity. It was George Burns the comedian who famously said “if you can fake sincerity you have it made” As he said this, he used his tonality for comic effect and it struck home as we all have listened to far too many leaders who are demanding loyalty, commitment and extra effort while behaving in a way that does little to show they understand the challenges their followers face. I think we all have an in-built alarm that goes off when we encounter people who say one thing and do something else, they are not sincere and this stops trust in its tracks. As a consultant I am particularly careful not to exhort too much too early, as I know I have to walk a mile in my clients shoes before I can begin to prescribe solutions to problems I have seen before, yet are unique to each organisation.

The second behaviour is reliability. Say what you mean and do what you say is the quickest way to engender trust of the people around you. Reliability is an absolute requirement for trust to build as a result leaders need to exercise due caution when making promises. As leaders what you do is so much more important than what you say. So, if you say you are going to do something, then do it, you are being watched! It sounds simple, yet many leaders over promise and under deliver, citing ‘circumstances beyond their control’ in mitigation for the shortfall. This is not good enough and at best shows a lack of foresight and planning and at worst a lack of understanding of their span of control and ability to manage risk.

The third behaviour to develop is confidentiality and discretion. A leader can build trust by showing good judgement regarding the information they receive and how they use it. Gossip and tittle-tattle have no place in a leaders lexicon. Decisions and communications should be based on evidence and insight, not opinion and heresy. Trust will be built when a leader can speak with authority and integrity and this often means checking what you hear from different sources. As a trusted advisor and executive coach, I am often in the position of giving leaders feedback that they have not heard before and are unlikely to welcome. When I do this I always do so with evidence and sincerity of purpose, recognising that I am able to do this where others in the organisation can not, as all I am risking is next month’s invoice not my career!

These three behaviours are not the only behaviours to build trust but they are a great start. In my breakthrough coaching work I help managers and leaders build trust and as a result increase their credibility. This work does not involve the injection of Oxytocin but a change of behaviours and habits that go some way towards building a culture of trust in their organisation.

If building a culture of trust is something you are interested in exploring then please contact me and we can talk about this further.