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6 Trust-Building Actions That Work

By Meg Goodman, Last Modified
Apr 19, 2018
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> Human Resources

Having a solid foundation of trust strengthens business results and positively impacts the bottom line.

The stats speak for themselves. Harvard Business Review's Neuroscience Research found that people working for high-trust companies are 50 percent more productive, 76 percent more engaged, 74 percent less stressed and have 106 percent more energy at work than employees at organizations with little to no trust.

When trust is high among employees across all levels of a company, there is respect for one another. Employees are motivated, they're willing to take risks and learn from each other. Their loyalty to the company heightens, leading to reduced turnover. Open and honest communication is the norm and people feel as though their voices are heard. Collaboration flourishes with a true commitment to partnerships, resulting in increased creativity and innovation. And, the team-player culture creates more effective solutions and improved outcomes.

If this doesn't sound familiar, don't worry. There is a way to rebuild trust, and it may be easier than you think. It will take some time to build, but don't let it deter you – tenacity and belief in the outcome are your friends.

It starts by eliminating fear and encouraging a culture of accountability. Everyone at the company should demonstrate the below actions in the workplace and every leader must model this behavior every day. Only then, change can and will occur. 

1. Show others that it's safe.

Building a trusting culture starts at the top. Senior leaders are the key catalysts for change. They need to set the tone and be an example for others by consistently demonstrating through their actions and words that it is okay to show weakness, take risks, share ideas or express concerns.

Julie Winkle Giulioni, co-author of "Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want," writes, "When leaders are authentic, demonstrate vulnerability, admit to not knowing and come clean that they, too, make mistakes, this sends a powerful message to others. When they [employees] see that there are no negative ramifications and maybe even positive effects, the door is open to taking the risk of putting themselves out there, too."

The leadership team must hold each other accountable to ensure consistency. People pay attention, so it's crucial to regularly display these habits in order to establish and nurture a trusting environment.

2. Instill a "we rise and fall together" mentality.

Have each other's backs, and eliminate fear by being an advocate for all. Encourage people to take risks and own their mistakes so others can help resolve them.

3. Speak openly, honestly and always listen.

When there is complete transparency across the company and constant communication of new happenings, employees don't need to fill in the gaps themselves. Reduce banter by regularly sharing the current state of the company, where it wants to be and where the employee fits into the big picture.

Further, it is important to encourage active listening to ensure messages aren't lost in translation. Active listening is a way of listening and responding in a conversation that improves mutual understanding. For example, "This is what I hear you saying," should be a phrase heard regularly around the office.

4. Do what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it.

Trust grows stronger each time a promise is kept. Everyone should strive their hardest to always follow through. This increases reliability, which reduces any micromanaging and leads to a more productive environment.

5. Learn, notice and question.

Encourage a culture of being tenaciously curious. When someone is thinking creatively, noticing opportunities and asking practical questions, it brings a renewed energy to the team. Provide the freedom and resources necessary to further professional development and spark curiosity. And, regularly share wins and lessons learned across the company to get people out of their silos.

6. Constantly strive to be better.

No matter how great you or your team is, there is always room for improvement. Celebrate the wins, no matter the size, and continuously encourage honest and open communication by asking the hard questions for feedback: How are we doing? What are we doing right? What’s making a difference here?

Cultures don't become toxic overnight, and your fix won't happen quickly either. But with determined focus, persistence, and walking the talk, it can and will change.

Meg Goodman
Meg Goodman
See Meg Goodman's Profile
Meg Goodman is Managing Director of Jacobs & Clevenger, a direct response and relationship marketing agency. She has brought measurable, data-driven results to Chase, First National Bank of Omaha, United Airlines and Serta. With more than 30 years of marketing experience, the senior brand and marketing executive is known for her strong leadership abilities, executional excellence and creative visionary thinking to deliver bottom line impact. She also has a track record of success in revitalizing and growing powerful teams by improving company culture and building processes that increase efficiency, ensuring long-term growth. When Meg isn’t riding her motorcycle, you can connect with her on LinkedIn or by emailing her at mgoodman@jacobsclevenger.com.
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