Building a Culture of Trust
The best kind of leadership is the kind that still works when you’re not there.
The best kind of leadership is the kind that still works when you’re not there.
In a culture of trust people can work remotely and you trust that they are achieving the same or more than having you looking over their shoulder. You can trust that they'll get as much done turning up at 10 as they would turning up at 9. In a culture of trust you can give constructive criticism because the person you are critiquing trusts that you have their best interests at heart. You trust that they will take your feedback and use it to improve themselves and push the business even further towards its goals.
Creating a culture is no more complicated than rewarding the behaviour you want and discouraging the behaviours you don't. Just because it's simple doesn't mean it's easy however. It takes thought, effort and courage.
By the end of this masterclass you will understand how important it is to your business health to establish a culture of trust. You will feel empowered to take control of the process of establishing trust or re-establishing trust where mistrust has crept in. You will be in possession of all the knowledge and techniques you need to increase trust in your team, reducing the cost of doing business and increasing the speed with which business is done.
A low trust culture serves no one. It doesn’t feel nice to work for someone who doesn’t trust you and it doesn’t feel nice to have a team you don’t feel you can trust. Working with trust increases the speed and lowers the cost of the work being done.
By the end of this video you will understand how vital is it to cultivate a high trust culture in the workplace. You will have knowledge of the increased return return to shareholders in high trust organisations and you will be aware of the characteristics of high and low trust cultures.
Trust is a fundamental aspect of all our lives. We. don’t really think about it, we’re not ‘mindful’ about it very often, to use a buzzword. We often take it for granted, in fact we take it for granted most of the time. For example, when you’re driving down the road, you trust the person coming in the opposite direction not to veer across your lane aiming to hit your car. Trust exerts itself on us in big ways - when you’re walking down the pavement you trust the cars not to mount the kerb, and in smaller ways - you trust the people walking towards you to move slightly to the left or right to enable you both to walk comfortably. You trust the people behind you not to knock you on the head, or push you. When you’re standing on a train station platform you trust those around you not to push you on to the tracks. We literally trust people with our very lives multiple times on a daily basis.
Already you trust me! You trust that I’m not going to completely waste an hour or so of your lives, that what I say will be accurate, researched, formulated with the idea that it will help you. You trust me to talk in a way that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, to behave in a certain way. In fact, we are so mindless about trust, trusting of trust if you like, that we only really notice it when it is betrayed. When the waiter doesn’t bring your change, when your spouse lies to you, when the person behind you does bop you the head.
Trust is so fundamental an aspect of our lives that it imbues everything we do. Without the acceptance that we all trust each other there would be chaos. Imagine walking down the street and not being able to trust that those around you aren’t going to assault you in any way, that the cars aren’t going to mow you down, that the person running up behind you is just out for a jog. Life would be unbearable. And exhausting. We’d be constantly second guessing everyone’s motives, everyone’s actions, we’d be terrified of our constant vulnerability to attack. Our bodies and minds would be on the alert the entire time.
Have a quick think about the kinds of things you trust people with on a daily basis.
Thinking of trust like this, of course, makes it ridiculously obvious, laughable. Trust is so necessary to the smooth operation of our lives that its absence is a real problem. Only very few people in the world operate on the basis that they can’t trust anyone. And in fact, those people are generally diagnosed as suffering from a disorder known as paranoia, a fear that everyone is out to get them. But some people do operate like this in the workplace. They come out of a meeting and ask ‘what did he mean by that? Did you see his expression? What a waste of time, nothing ever changes! Etc etc etc - we all know those people.
But the default position of human operation is one of mutual trust. If as a collective we all trust each other, we all benefit, in general. If, however, no one trusts anyone, then our collective would disintegrate.
So to make a point about the prevalence of trust I have so far spoken about big things, about trusting someone not to push you off a train platform. But we’re now going to transfer that frame of reference to the workplace. There you go, you can trust me not to waste your time…
Because, you see, to get people to trust you, you must make them feel comfortable and trust is like a bank account that we can deposit into or withdraw from at any time. In a fleeting moment we can withdraw from a trust relationship that which has been deposited over years, and we can totally bankrupt ourselves.
Imagine you’re in the kitchen at home and you notice your partner’s phone light up with a message, you lean over, but before you can quite see they appear and whip it away from you.
Or the workplace equivalent, you overhear someone talking negatively about you as you walk into a room.
BAM, trust evaporates POOF. Gone, in an instant. Trust that has been built up over years, decades even. And how does it make us feel? We can imagine it, can’t we? That pit of the stomach feeling, it’s awful. It can destroy our self esteem.
Trust is so fragile, which is why we need to become aware of its preciousness and actively cultivate it in all the relationships that we have.
What I want you to do now is think about a relationship in the workplace that you have with a person whom you trust. What characterises that trusting relationship? Pause the video and have a think. Make some notes in a notebook.
So, what characterises that trusting relationship? I’m sure you have lots of things written down, but here are our thoughts. Honesty, Pause openness, Pause reliability, Pause use don’t bad mouth you, Pause deliver results, Pause easy, Pause listen to each other, Pause not judgemental, Pause helpful, Pause supportive, Pause caring.
Now pause the video and have a think about someone whom you don’t trust and what characterises that relationship?
So what characterises a low trust relationship: Pause well it’s a Lack of honesty, Pause manipulation of the truth, Pause distortion of facts, Pause blame, Pause many undiscussables, Pause tension - so you might feel you’re walking on eggshells, Pause not open to new ideas, Pause difficult.
In essence if we can reduce the difference between those relationships down to one word it would be that high trust ones are Easy whereas low trust relationships are difficult.
Business relationships with those whom you trust are easy, with those who you don’t trust they are not. And that’s a problem. Because without trust - openness, honesty, reliability, listening, results, ease - bringing the results in is difficult, and that means the bottom line is affected.
How is it affected? It’s affected by the speed with which the business is carried out and the associated cost of doing the business.
Imagine if we could do a deal on a handshake, how much quicker would that be? I promise to buy your house for a million pounds, we’ll complete in a month. But we don’t, we involve lawyers (for many good reasons) and that slows the business down and increase the cost.
If I ask Clare to do a job for me in the office, but I don’t trust her, so secretly I’m doing it myself too, then that’s a cost to the business. Or if I’m checking up on her multiple times, that’s a cost too.
Now, I’ve given that example because I want to raise the question that will be forming in everyone’s mind right now, if it hasn’t already formed, which is, “yeah but, people have got to earn trust, haven’t they?” And I’m provocatively going to say, ‘Have they?’
What’s our default position? Do we generally trust people or generally not. Yes we generally trust people. When people say, ‘I’ll have that back to you on Monday’ we trust them to deliver that. It’s only usually after a breakdown in trust that we start to distrust what people say. “I love you” “Do you really? My last partner said that too, but then he left me and went off with someone else, so I’m not sure if you really do love me or not. Or whether you’re just saying that because you want me to do something that’s completely on your agenda and not mine.” DON’T READ THIS IT’S BLURB. I tell me 5 year old I love her and what does she think, ‘Mum loves me”. End of. She hasn’t had her trust betrayed yet…
So look at how much easier that exchange in a trusting relationship is versus an untrusting one. It’s a basic example but we can apply that way of thinking to the workplace too.
You’re in a meeting and you say, “I’ve decided that from now on to be more proactive I’m going to whf on a Friday”. The untrusting boss thinks “Oh yeah, I bet he’s going to sit in his pyjamas playing video games, so I’ll email him at 8am and see how quickly he gets back to me.” Then, even if he gets a quick reply, he thinks “Now I’ve emailed him, he’s probably gone back to bed, I’ll email him again and check…” “I’ll call him at 4.55pm just to check he’s still working and not in the pub…”
We laugh at ourselves, but it’s true.
The trusting boss, in response to your wfh statement says what? “Okay.” And then leaves you to get on with things. So that when you’re wfh you really can crack on with important stuff instead of answering needy emails that have an unspoken agenda between the two of you. Easy. The trusting boss defaults to a trust position and will only not trust if the results don’t come in.
But if our default position is not to trust people we can waste a lot of time and energy on not trusting people when actually most people are trustworthy. We often make rules, handbooks, procedures based on the 2% that aren’t trustworthy, rather than the 98% that are. Now if you’re running a shop and you have a load of people you don’t know from Adam coming in every day that’s fair enough, but if you’re in the workplace dealing with your colleagues then there’s got to be a better way of operating.
Research shows that the total return to shareholders in high trust organisations is almost 3x higher than in low trust organisations. Stephen Covey says, “High trust is like leaven in bread, which lifts everything around it. In a company, high trust materially improves communication, collaboration, execution, innovation, strategy, engagement, partnering and relationships with all stakeholders.”
Think about flying before 9/11. Airports operated on a high trust basis. We used to be able to go through security pretty quickly with our shoes on and our drinks in our bag. We used to be able to go and sit in the cockpit and look at the controls - mid flight. Post 9/11 security takes a long time, shoes off, belt off, hands swabbed - shoes back on belt back on, coat back on - costs have therefore risen for the operators and that gets paid for ultimately by us, the consumer. And there’s no way we can go into the cockpit. So a lack of trust = slow speed, less fun and higher costs. It’s the same in any company. If processes/deeds/expenses/innovation need approving at every step then that increases the cost, slows down the speed and makes the business being done less fun overall, more bureaucratic.
Unfortunately in many businesses there isn’t a culture of trust. There’s the exact opposite. Research in 2002 showed that 60% of people in Britain felt that other people could be trusted. 4 years later it was down to 29%. In terms of the workplace, only 51% of employees have trust in senior management, only 36% of employees believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity.
What are the real life implications of this in the workplace? Have a think now and come up with 4 consequences of this lack of trust in leadership. Pause the video while you do:
So, what are the real life implications of this in the workplace?
Right, so we have established that lack of trust in the workplace, as in any relationship, is a bad thing. What I want you to do now that the video is coming to an end is to make a note of any of the above that you feel are happening in your workplace at the moment. Don’t act on it yet, just note it down.
If you want your business to be as productive and efficient as it can be then you need to develop a culture of trust. A culture of trust means that people:
A culture of trust comes from the top and there are very simple things you can do each day to develop this in your workplace. This workshop will explain the benefits of a culture of trust as well as teach you the techniques that will help you identify where you are at the moment, and then repair and build a culture where it’s okay to admit to vulnerability so the whole business benefits.
In this video we’re going to talk about how we can create or improve trust with those around us.
By the end of this video you will have an understanding of what comprises trust, you will feel in control of how trustworthy you are perceived as, as an individual, and you will be able to restore trust in a relationship that has broken down into mistrust.
Trust, according to Stephen Covey Jnr, is a function of 2 things: character and competence.
Character is important because when we’re talking about our belief that a person will do the right thing, we need to be able to trust that they have the degree of character required to resist doing the wrong thing, even if it’s tempting to do so - think breaking confidentiality, insider trading, fiddling expenses. Competence is equally as important too though. If I trust someone to do a job, they need to be able to do it. I wouldn’t trust my mum to fly me to London (no matter how great a character she had) but I would trust her to look after my daughter.
So trust = character & competence.
And by competence we mean someone who gets results. If you think about it, if every time you left your child with someone else they came home with injuries you’d pretty soon stop trusting them. If your sales team never hits target, your marketing team never comes up with the goods, your MD never shows up on time - you soon stop trusting those people to do that job. So competence is key.
In order to understand how we can start creating greater trust around us we’re going to think about it in 3 areas: Self trust, relationship trust and organisational trust.
So first - Self trust: do you trust yourself? Do you set and achieve goals? Do others trust you? How worthy of trust are you? Do you keep commitments? Do you turn up on time? Do you keep confidentialities? In a word, do you have credibility? When you say you’re going to do something, do people know it will get done. Or do they give it a 50/50?
Whether you are trustworthy or not depends upon your integrity, your intent, your capabilities and your results.
Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. It’s walking the walk, talking the talk. If as a leadership coach I was yelling at my team and ruling through intimidation I wouldn’t be walking the walk. We run a 7 month programme called the ULP which ties in health and fitness with leadership. It’s a fantastic course. Paul Greaves was thinking of coming on our course a couple of years ago. He asked to meet the fitness coach Steve. As soon as Steve walked through the door, Paul said, “yes, fine, I’ll do it”. I said, you haven’t even spoken to him yet. “I don’t need to, I can see he knows what he’s doing already. So many Personal Trainers are not in peak condition. That’s what I was checking.” If Steve had a belly he would have lost credibility with Paul. Our behaviour matters, what we say matters, even when we think no one can see, or hear.
Our Intent matters because when we suspect a hidden agenda from someone or we don’t believe they are acting in our best interests we are suspicious about things they say and do. “What did he really mean by that?” “Why did he go that way home and not his usual route?” “Why did they meet with so and so?” This matters hugely in a coaching relationship. If the people I coach thought for a minute I wasn’t acting in their best interests I wouldn’t be able to give them the feedback they need to improve and develop. And I give people very honest feedback. I have told people to ‘stop messing about’, ‘you talk too much’ and the like. But because they know it’s because I genuinely want them to be the best they can be, they take it and work with it.
Capabilities - to be trusted you have to be able to do what you say you can do. If you’re a speaker, you have to be able to stand at the front of the room and deliver a coherent talk. If you’re a lawyer, you have to know about the law. It doesn’t matter what your intent is or how much integrity you have if you don’t know a thing about what you’re supposed to know a thing about. Being trustworthy is about being capable.
The final part of being trustworthy is Results - track record matters. If we don’t get done what we’re supposed to get done it diminishes the trust people have in us. If we do, it increases the trust people have in us.
So, what I want you to do now is to have a think about how trustworthy you are. Not just in general but specifically. Think about it in terms of your integrity, your intent, your capabilities and your results. Ask yourself the following questions, under those headings: Integrity: do I do what I say I’m going to do? Even when I could perhaps get away with not doing it? Intent? Can people always trust me to act in their best interest when giving my opinion. Capability - can I do what is required? Results - how often do I get the required results?
Can you answer these questions positively? Pause the video and have a think about them.
If you weren’t able to answer those questions completely positively then note down the areas in which you felt you dropped down. Don’t judge yourself. You’re doing better than most people by even thinking about this kind of stuff and asking yourself the questions. Just note it down and make a promise to yourself, and others, if required, to do better from now on.
The second area is Relationship trust: here we are talking about ‘trust accounts’ - how much we can deposit in our trust accounts with everyone around us. Trust is buildable by your actions and behaviours. And we’re going to talk about those in just a minute.
5 top behaviours for building trust
Be honest - be transparent, have no hidden agenda, use normal language, don’t spin the truth or lie. Confront reality - don’t have undiscussables.
Practise accountability - deliver results, apologise if required, be humble - so keep learning, don’t cover things up to protect yourself or others (see 1), make others accountable and aware they’ll be required to be accountable - make sure they know what’s expected of them.
Keep commitments - be loyal, maintain confidentiality, deliver results - don’t make excuses if you didn’t. When you make a commitment you build hope, when you deliver on it, you build trust. In a study ‘keeping promises’ was ranked the number 1 behaviour in creating an ethical culture with ‘not doing what they say’ as the number 1 trust breaker for leaders.
Be trusting - be caring and kind, empower people, allow them to succeed. Don’t snoopervise, or hover, let them get the job done. Tell people you trust them. If someone tells you that one of your friends said this or that or did this or that, give your friend the benefit of the doubt. Think, I’m sure it wasn’t meant negatively, or it was just a mistake. Don’t leap to negative conclusions.
Listen, listen, listen - when did you hear someone criticised for listening too much? It doesn’t really happen. When you listen, you get to understand what’s really going on, you really get to know people and people will tell you things. Listening is fundamental to great leadership and is often undervalued as a leadership skill and a relationship skill.
So in a minute I want you to pause the video and think about those 5 behaviours. How do you rate yourself? Mark yourself out of 10 (but no 7s allowed) on each of the behaviours. So that’s: being honest, being accountable, keeping commitments, being trusting and listening. Pause the video and rate yourself now. Don’t judge yourself, just be honest.
So, we have covered self trust and relationship trust. The third area to do with trust is Organisational trust: this is key in getting business done as easily as possible, with as few impediments in the way. If you have unwieldy systems and procedures that are predicated on a lack of trust then you are increasing the cost and decreasing the speed with which business can be done. Many businesses have huge handbooks about how to behave and how to do everything within the business from book annual leave to eating your lunch. One company who have decided to do things differently is Nordstrum, a huge American retailer. This is what it says their employee handbook:
Welcome to Nordstrom. We are glad to have you with our company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. So our handbook is very simple. We only have one rule…
ONE RULE Use good judgement in all situations. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or HR officer any question at any time.
So, what can you simplify at work. What can you make easier for everyone with a bit of trust? You might not want to go as far as Nordstrum, or have an unlimited annual leave entitlement but there are probably 5 things you could think of right now that would be simplified with an increase of trust.
What I’d like you to do now is write down those 5 things. Don’t think about what the problems associated with them are, just think, in the simplest terms, what could be improved with more trust in our workplace, or our home? Pause the video and do it now.
What did you come up with? Some of the things I came up with when I thought about it are: dress codes, flexible working, running regular team meetings, organising workloads or workflows. I’m sure you have plenty.
The thing is if you practise the above behaviours consistently, trust in your self, in those around you and in your organisation will increase dramatically. Remember why that’s important: A 2002 study by Watson Wyatt shows that the total return to shareholders in high trust organisations is almost 3x higher than in low trust organisations. Stephen Covey says, “High trust is like leaven in bread, which lifts everything around it. In a company, high trust materially improves communication, collaboration, execution, innovation, strategy, engagement, partnering and relationships with all stakeholders.”
It’s worth investing in for the results, but it’s really worth investing in for the day to day ease with which it makes everything happen. Might you get your trust betrayed at some point? Yes, of course, you might, but you shouldn’t make rules and regulations just because a very small minority might one day betray you. We don’t drive down the road basing our behaviour on the potential for one troubled soul to cross the central reservation, we drive basing our decisions on the fact that 99.9% of the time we are all trustworthy. We should operate in the same way in business, and life.
But what if it does go wrong? What if it has already and you have a relationship with someone that is at rock bottom in terms of trust, or nearing rock bottom.
Being able to Restore trust is a skill that most people don’t possess. Most people will allow a friendship or a business relationship to just fizzle away if restoring it would require any action from themselves. Especially if it’s action they are uncomfortable with, like apologising, or action that they fear might be rebuffed, like reaching out to someone. I have done this several times in the past to friendships, or other relationships that were worth saving, in my opinion. I can tell you every time it isn’t easy to do, but it really is worthwhile, even if your attempt is rebuffed as a couple of mine have been, or rather ignored. Mostly my reaching back out with an olive branch has been well and even gratefully received. And even if your relationship doesn’t regain the dizzy heights it had before the fall, it still feels better to have kind words on either side behind you.
In a business context it’s even more important to reach out and repair a relationship gone wrong. If the problem is occurring within the business then your lack of communication and communication with some other than straightforward agenda can cause real problems and slow down business being done to an unacceptable level. If it’s external, so with a supplier, a customer or a competitor then it might affect your reputation which is also unacceptable. Either way it’s really important that you are the bigger person here and that whatever went before you get over it and move the relationship on. This might mean making a phone call, sending a text, a card, an email, whatever medium of communication you find best.
In terms of what to say, I always find it’s important to acknowledge the difference, though not rehash it. So, I say something like, “Hi Bob, I wanted to reach out to you. Things have been a bit awkward between us recently and I wondered if we could get back on track. I’d really like that. Can we get a coffee next week?” If you need to apologise then you should, again you don’t need to rehash the issue but your apology should be absolute and not followed by but or the placing of any blame on the other party. Something like “Hi Bob, I’m sorry about the issue. I would like our relationship to get back on track. Do you think that’s possible? Can we get a coffee next week and move on from this?”
Are there any people with whom you need to start building or rebuilding trust? Ask yourself this question: how am I complicit in creating that relationship? Pause the video and have a think about how you can start rebuilding that relationship.
Remember that trust is fundamental to any relationship, be it business or personal or even with yourself. Think about the answers you have come up with during this session and set yourself 5 actions that you can do or start to do this week to increase trust in yourself and those around you. Then make sure you practise accountability and carry out those actions.
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