In 2021, it may be an understatement to say we all have trust issues. When someone makes a commitment, we desperately want to believe them—whether it’s a leading politician remarking on his/her commitment to progress, Amazon updating your package status, or your spouse promising to set the chicken out to thaw for dinner, in 2021, we want to believe in better.
But what happens each time someone fails to keep their word or fulfill their promise? That trust meter standing tall between our head and heart drops down a little, and then a little more as expectation escapes us. And just like muscle tissue after a workout, if you don’t take the time to listen and recover, well, that tissue never gets to heal. Sadly, one of the places where we most express or experience trust trauma is in the workplace— the place we need it most if growth and change remain an aim.
Repeatedly, studies show that trust ultimately leads a company’s bottom line and innovation efforts—according to the Trust Edge Leadership Institute’s 2018 Trust Outlook, 23 percent of employees would be willing to offer more ideas and solutions, and 21 percent would offer to work longer hours, if they trusted their leaders. That quarter or so of employees is almost the exact difference between how many employees trust their employers versus those who don’t—in a January 2019 article titled “People Trust Their Boss a Lot More Than the Government or the Media,” Bloomberg claims 75 percent of employees trust their employers. How can we make up that 25 percent difference?
It starts from the top, down—leaders can cultivate a culture of trust by implementing the following three habits.
Ask More Questions and Answer with Transparency
Asking “Why” can move us in so many different directions—the more we ask it, the better and closer we get to the root of a problem and consequently more sustainable solutions. But key to this end is “why” without judgement or restrictions. Encouraging a culture of “why” and asking questions can help individuals study a situation for themselves at a deeper level. However, if only one type of person gets to ask “why,” say employer to employee, it can create an environment of distrust, infantilization and contention. If an employee is unable to ask questions and receive open, honest, detailed answers, they can become suspicious of hidden agendas or even question the value of their opinion to the company. Start a relationship off with honesty and supportive details, and you’ll be setting the groundwork for a strong, ongoing trust bond.
Learn from the Past, but Don’t Let it Cloud Your Future
Our past experiences can be our best lessons—or our worst enemies to build biases. As a child, maybe you were promised ice cream by a babysitter for getting ready for bed on time, but that promise was later reneged—does that mean all child care professionals are untrustworthy? I should hope not. But the opposite can also be true—if you’re triggered by certain words or actions, and suspect unethical or unfair actions, trust your instincts. Break down all the facts you know are true, and ask for a conversation to learn both sides of the story so you feel more comfortable—most of the time, we tend to create internal scenarios that are worse than reality. Laying those cards out on the table will help you take a breath and analyze the situation with clarity.
Let It Go
This one is especially for the employer and manager side of a relationship. When you find yourself wanting to micromanage or hinder your own efforts at delegation, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Chances are, the worst will happen at an extremely low rate; remember, getting struck by lightning is a 1 in 500,000 chance. Couple that probability with, “Why did I hire this individual,” and you’ll find a renewed confidence in your and your team’s capabilities. Remember, you hired from a collection of qualified individuals and selected this person for the skills and personality you believe are a great fit for your team.
Trust is both given and earned, but trust in any capacity, be it within relationships, teams, organizations, customers or ourselves is an ongoing building and rebuilding effort. When you approach relationships with honesty, integrity and an extra breath or two, you’ll find it—trust me.