It’s been said that trust is like money: it's tough to get and easy to lose. But what does trust look like and how can you tell if there’s trust within your leadership, your team and your organization? It’s much easier to discern its absence than its presence. When trust is low, morale and profits follow. Other telltale signs are higher turnover, an overactive rumor mill, less innovation and risk taking, followed by lost customers. By contrast, high trust pays. Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that companies with trusted top executives posted shareholder returns 42 percentage points higher than those where distrust was the rule.
Sadly, trust in leadership is not the rule. According to Aon’s Loyalty Institute, less than half of employees trust their organizations leaders overall. The challenge can be easier to address once it is defined. One definition of trust is: “a positive expectation that another will not act opportunistically.” Another is: “Confidence in and reliance on good qualities, especially fairness, truth, honor or ability.” Trust requires a mutual understanding and expectation of values, roles and behavior. Can you say with certainty that you and your team share the same expectation of your role in their immediate work life and career? Building trust means looking for what you may not want to see and finding what you may not want to know. Can you really afford not to?
What can you do to rebuild lost trust with teams or customers?
● Seek feedback: Leaders are often baffled by the lack of trust in their organizations. Multirater feedback instruments, such as a validated 360 degree assessment, can offer a reliable window into areas for improvement.
● Zero in on the issue: Is it personal mistrust, such as lost credibility, reliability or overindulged self-interest, or organizational mistrust, caused by unfulfilled promises, organizational misalignment or the unintended effects of rapid change?
● Acknowledge and plan: Once identified, openly acknowledge the specific issues and create a plan to close trust gaps.
● Raise the bar and follow-through: Whatever the initial issue, repair comes over time with overt and consistent behavior. Create higher expectations for trustworthy behavior and follow through.
● Watch it: Monitor the effort closely, repeating assessments within six months.
Trust is priceless and can even be a competitive advantage. Don’t assume you deserve it. As in all things, be deliberate about earning and maintaining organizational and personal trust.