Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders: Building a Culture of Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of effective workplace leadership. As leaders, we recognize the significance of trust in nurturing strong relationships that drive results.

I have worked with many leaders in my career, and something that often surprises them is the low trust scores received when their teams participate in trust-related surveys such as the Flexibility and Trust Survey or the Employee Passion Survey. These leaders believe they are trustworthy, and they likely are. The disconnect occurs because trustworthiness is a character trait. Building trusted relationships is a skill that requires leaders to engage in behaviors that build trust.

Building trusted relationships requires a skillset beyond mere character traits. I have observed that some trust-building behaviors may come naturally to some leaders while others come naturally to others. I have yet to meet a leader for whom all the behaviors required to build trust come naturally. Those behaviors that don’t come naturally must be developed as habits. The wide range of behaviors required to build and maintain trusted relationships is part of what makes developing trust so difficult. 

This article explores the art of building a culture of trust in the workplace. Understanding essential trust-building behaviors and integrating them into leadership practices can foster a cohesive, productive work environment that supports teamwork and fuels organizational success.

Trust In Organizations Is Declining. 

International market research firm DDI Global published their 2023 Leadership Forecast recently with some concerning results.

leadership forecast - building a culture of trust

Of the 13,695 leaders from 1,556 organizations worldwide who were studied, only 46% of leaders report that they trust their direct manager to do what is right. More troubling, only 32% say they trust senior leaders in their organization. 

Last month we talked about the high level of change that employees are experiencing, which could be one reason for declining trust. Change often causes people to feel threatened – eroding confidence, especially in the absence of leaders who exhibit trust-building behaviors.

Developing Leadership Behaviors that Build a Culture of Trust 

Leaders understand the stakes. In high-trust organizations, employees exhibit higher productivity, increased work energy, improved collaboration with colleagues, and greater loyalty to their employers than those in low-trust companies. They experience less chronic stress and find greater happiness, contributing to enhanced performance. 

building a culture of trust infographicOne set of statistics from the Harvard Business Review article states, “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”

However, many leaders are unsure of specifically the actions to take to build greater trust within the organization. 

A 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review on the neuroscience of trust does an excellent job of describing how to develop trusted leaders.

Recognition plays a vital role in building trust in the workplace. Neuroscientific research highlights that immediate recognition significantly impacts trust. Public and tangible recognition inspires others to strive for excellence and allows top performers to share best practices.

Leaders can also induce “challenge stress” by assigning achievable yet complex tasks that intensify focus and strengthen social connections among team members. However, clear and attainable goals are essential to prevent discouragement.

Giving employees discretion in how they work fosters motivation and innovation. Autonomy allows individuals to explore various approaches, leading to better problem-solving and creativity.

Organizations should share information openly to reduce uncertainty and chronic stress. Regular communication about goals and strategies enhances trust and teamwork among employees.

Intentionally building relationships at work improves performance. Encouraging social interactions through team-building activities and acknowledging the importance of personal growth alongside professional development creates a positive work environment.

Leaders who ask for help instead of dictating tasks foster trust and cooperation. This vulnerability encourages collaboration and reinforces a sense of security among team members.

Measuring Trust Can Help Foster Positive Change 

How do you know if your organization is one where trust is high or where trust is low?

The best way is to measure it using a tool like the Employee Passion Survey. This tool utilizes an inventory of questions based on the Integro Trust Model to identify employees’ trust in the organization and their managers. Based on the results, it then outlines specific actions that can be taken to increase the level of confidence.

The Integro Trust Model is a comprehensive approach that embraces various trust-building behaviors to foster a thriving work environment. This model empowers leaders to cultivate trust within their teams by focusing on Communication and Consistency. With a strong foundation, leaders can implement specific actions to fortify trust and enhance team dynamics. You can explore this blog post to understand the Integro Trust Model and its practical applications.

Given the research findings, odds are your organization could benefit from increasing trust. And clearly, doing so is worth the investment.

Contact us to take the first step towards building a more inclusive and trusting work environment and about implementing this survey in your organization.

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POSTED ON: Culture, Coaching, Leadership, Trust