Building Trust

Trust is an interesting concept. In my last post I shared some about trust and how difficult it is to create because it requires a person to be vulnerable. One individual shared that Kouzes and Posner in their book, The Leadership Challenge, mention that in order to create trust someone must step up and be the first one to be trusting and vulnerable. I can’t agree more. If we want a trusting environment, then we must take the lead and be trusting ourselves.

Leaders are always talking about creating teamwork and building a trusting environment. Again Kouzes and Posner state that a leader cannot lead without trust. If leading is about getting things done with and through others, then the leaders must have some buy-in from their followers. Their followers must believe that what the leader says and does will have a significant and positive impact or they will not follow. If the leader behaves in ways that support that belief, then trust will follow. If the leader behaves in ways that cause their followers to question their leadership, there will be little or no trust.

But, we all know this from our experience, don’t we? So does trust really matter? Do we have any evidence that it is better to demonstrate and practice trust? In their book, Kouzes and Posner site several studies that indicate the impact that trust has on organizations and human behavior. One study found that “trust was ‘the number one differentiator’ between the top 20 percent of companies surveyed and the bottom 20 percent.” It appears the more trusted the employees felt, the productive they became.

Kouzes and Posner also report that psychologist have found trusting people are happier and psychologically better adjusted. People who demonstrate they can be trusted are better liked and even sought out to be friends. Leaders who behave in ways that demonstrate trust have more influence. The result is that teams that work on building trust become more effective teams. In reality,” trust is the most significant predictor of individuals’ satisfaction with their organizations.”

So there must be something to this trust issue. Now the question becomes, how do I create a environment of trust? In my attempt to answer this question, I’m drawn back to the person’s comments about being the first person to demonstrate trust by taking the risk of being vulnerable. It all starts with you, the individual. With trust as the key to the followers’ satisfaction, leaders need to make certain they are demonstrating respect for others and their ideas. Trust building leaders listen very closely to other points of view. They recognize and build on the strengths and skills of their followers, empowering them to take the initiative and make decisions.

Trust building leaders are open to the influence of others, even to the point of changing their mind about issues or directions. This openness then encourages others to be open and vulnerable, thus leading to more trust.

The truth of the matter is that it is easier to build distrusting environments than it is to build trusting ones. And, sometimes it appears to me that people are more prepared to create distrusting environments. Leaders who are skilled at creating distrust are very protective of their turf and power. They are more directive and controlling. They don’t share information readily, realizing that information can lead to empowerment. They try desperately to control others’ behavior and attitudes. All of this behavior results in producing other distrustful behavior with the end result being an ineffective, if not dysfunctional, team or organization.

Kouzes and Posner state it best; “If leaders want the higher levels of performance that come with trust and collaboration, they must demonstrate their trust in others before asking for trust from others.”

To be a trust builder starts with the mirror. Spend some time looking in the mirror and asking yourself if you have what it takes to build trust. Are you the kind of a person that others want to be around because you are respectful, open, honest, and straightforward?  Will you take your leadership and demonstrate trust in others to build trust in the team or the organization? Isn’t trust an interesting concept?

Until next time, practice being trusting by being open and vulnerable.