Build a Culture of Trust
Find out the eight management behaviors that foster trust.
As a leader, what can you do to increase productivity, profitability, and retention? According to The Neuroscience of Trust published in the Harvard Business review, focus on building a culture of trust. Neuroscientist Paul J. Zak found people in high-trust organizations are 50% more productive, 76% more engaged, have 13% fewer sick days, 74% less stress, and 106% more energy at work.
How to Manage for Trust
Dr. Zak identified eight management behaviors that foster trust. These behaviors are measurable and can be managed to improve performance.
- Recognize Excellence. Recognition has a significant impact on trust when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal, and public. Public recognition not only uses the power of the crowd to celebrate successes but also inspires others to aim for excellence. It gives top performers a forum to share best practices so that others can learn from them.
- Induce Challenge Stress. Challenging but achievable goals release positive neurochemicals that intensify people’s focus and strengthen social connections. But this only works if the challenges are attainable and have a concrete endpoint. Vague or impossible goals cause people to give up before they even start. Leaders should check in frequently to assess progress and adjust goals that are too easy or out of reach.
- Give people discretion in how they do their work. Autonomy is the norm for sales associates. For salaried employees, once they are trained, allow them to manage their project whenever possible. Being trusted to figure things out is a big motivator. Autonomy also promotes innovation.
- Enable job crafting. When you have special projects, allow team members to choose the projects on which they want to work. People love to focus their energies on what they care about most. When the project wraps up, do 360-degree evaluations so that individual contributions can be measured.
- Share information broadly. Only 40% of employees report that they are well informed about their company’s goals, strategies, and tactics. This uncertainty leads to chronic stress and undermines teamwork. Openness is the antidote. Organizations that share their “flight plans” with employees reduce uncertainty about where they are headed and why.
- Intentionally build relationships. Neuroscience experiments show that when people intentionally strengthen social ties at work, their performance improves. Trust and sociability are deeply embedded in our nature. It can’t be just about the task at hand. Lunches, after-work parties, and team-building activities build relationships and trust. When people care about one another, they perform better because they don’t want to let their teammates down.
- Facilitate whole-person growth. High-trust organizations help their people develop personally as well as professionally. Numerous studies show that if you are not growing as a human being, your performance will suffer. High-trust companies adopt a growth mindset when developing talent. Investing in the whole person has a powerful effect on engagement and retention.
- Show vulnerability. Leaders in high-trust companies ask for help from colleagues instead of just telling them to do things. Asking for help is a sign of a secure leader—one who engages everyone to reach goals. Asking for help is effective because it taps into the natural human impulse to cooperate with others.
The Return on Trust
A survey of 1,095 working adults in the U.S. found that companies scored lowest on recognizing excellence and sharing information. Most companies could enhance trust quickly by improving in these two areas—even if they didn’t improve in the other six. Is it worth the effort? What is the return on trust? People in high-trust organizations experience 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 60% more job satisfaction, 74% less stress, and 40% less burnout. Trust works!