Pallavi Pinakin discusses the value of building trust in organisations

‘Trust’ and ‘business’ aren’t terms that usually go hand in hand. In fact, relationships in the corporate space too often tend to be associated with competition, self-interest and deceit. And that’s a pity because nothing could be worse for business!

Contrary to popular belief, it is trust rather than money that makes the corporate world function. So what is trust?

According to Trusted Advisor Associates, trust can be defined by four variables – viz. credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation.

Credibility refers to what we say and how much weight can be attributed to our opinion. Reliability is when actions follow words; if we tend to do as we say and generally keep our promises, we’re seen as dependable.

Intimacy is the feeling of safety we inspire in others that allows them to trust us with important tasks or private information. The more intimate a relationship, the less likely one is to violate confidentiality.

And self-orientation refers to the primary interest of a party. Those perceived as being largely self-oriented will never garner true trust as they will always put their own interests first.

It’s interesting to note that trust is always defined in terms of the personal rather than the professional. When we speak about trusting a company, we’re referring to the people who lead or work at the institution. Therefore, building trusting relationships between companies and clients, as well as between management and employees, is imperative.

There are no shortcuts to trust – it’s built over years as a result of multiple actions, words, thoughts and honoured promises. While it can’t be achieved overnight, it’s well worth the hard work.

According to neuroscience research by Harvard University, high trust work environments enjoy twice as much energy, a 74 percent fall in stress levels and an impressive 50 percent rise in productivity compared to low trust workplaces.

When workers know their colleagues and leaders will step up for them, they tend to take more risks. Customers also tend to stay loyal to companies that have come through for them.

The benefits of cultivating professional trust are compelling. Here’s how you can build workplace trust as a leader.

SHOW OF FAITH In general, we think of trust as something that has to be earned, not handed out freely. However, it’s important to start on the right foot in the workplace. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and trust them to have the best interests of the company and their co-workers at heart – unless proven otherwise.

Without this initial show of faith, one is doomed to enter a vicious cycle. Managers demonstrate that they don’t believe in their employees,
who in turn no longer care about living up to their expectations, which only leads to more clamping down. As a leader, try giving all employees a 100 percent trust score on day one and make sure they know it.

AVOID HOVERING To demonstrate that you trust your workers, it’s vital that you don’t watch over them like a hawk. All this does is to create an environment of suspicion.

If employees feel that management trusts them to complete their work on time without having to clock their hours or take sick leave only when they really need to, they will strive to live up to the ideal more often than not.

RESPOND QUICKLY Handle lapses right away. When workplace trust is broken, address it quickly so that the issue doesn’t have a chance to fester. If it was an honest mistake, try to understand what happened and outline a clear plan of communication to avoid a recurrence. If trust was broken intentionally, you may want to consider giving one more chance, depending

on the transgression.

However, with deliberate or repeat offences, it’s important to take a stand. Make it clear that you won’t allow workplace trust to be taken advantage of and will protect the culture of confidence you’ve worked hard to build.

MANAGE ISSUES Trust is a two-way street and your team members need to know they can depend on you when the need arises. Make time to genuinely listen to feedback or problems without being dismissive.

Similarly, with customers too, show them you care about their complaints. Rather than sweeping issues under the carpet, work to resolve them immediately. This will enable you to cultivate longstanding trust with your consumer base.

KEEP PROMISES Nothing kills trust faster than not living up to one’s word. If someone has been promised something, the priority should be to deliver on it.

Sometimes, leaders make grand claims to retain employees or customers for the short term. When these claims are left unfulfilled, the other party feels let down and trust is broken. Focus on keeping expectations realistic; then work towards meeting them... or better still, exceeding them!