Is trust essential in business? Many of us would quickly say that trust is critical to the survival of our personal relationships. If you take the argument that survival in business is about the strength of relationships within a business and between customers and suppliers; then it follows that trust is and will be an important measure of business success.
Many businesses periodically use offsite team shared experiences to work on building and maintaining workplace trust. Investment in building team cohesiveness and trust need to be carefully translated back into the workplace for lasting positive results.
Trust in business and life can be likened to growing a delicate flower – it can take time to blossom and can easily be crushed.
As consultants we often observe trust issues as the root cause of poor performance. On a recent Zenworkz assignment, we witnessed the effects of a complete breakdown of trust between groups.
The introduction of new operating plant and technology combined with the flow-on requirements of new skills, changed work practices, work scheduling and new maintenance tasks, was being strongly resisted.
Each of the affected groups had become polarised, suspicious, critical and lacking in trust of efforts to resolve the introduction issues, and behaviour was escalating accordingly. What should have been a smooth change transition, instead took over 12 months to implement with the loss of a senior executive.
As a result the business suffered losses financially, to their reputation as effective project managers, and in the previously built goodwill and cooperation between individuals and groups – demonstrating a delicate flower easily being crushed.
Our Concise Oxford Dictionary defines Trust as:
A firm belief in reliability, honesty, veracity, justice, strength etc of person or thing.
We believe that trust [in the forms of reliability, competency, integrity, values, respect] are the basic currency of business success.
Every day we rely or trust in others to deliver information, materials, products, and services which enable our business to work. Within our business, we rely or trust in our people to perform work which our customers and stakeholders in turn, can be trust to deliver information, materials, products, and services to meet their needs.
Outside of our business, we rely or trust in our government agencies to keep our country, business environment, institutions and citizens secure, fair and democratic, to fulfil our individual and collective aspirations.
Trust is a complex and interrelated set of actions, experiences, and beliefs which we experience and influence each day.
In working to build resourceful and resilient people, we sometimes encounter degrees of mistrust or distrust between executives, managers, team leaders and workers. We believe it is important to measure levels of trust as an essential part of improving business performance.
The degree of trust evident [or lack of trust] can impact business cost, innovation, information sharing, problem solving, service levels, and business reputation. No part of a business will be untouched by poor trust practices.
From our experience the following 4 essential tips will assist in building a foundation for trust:
1. Clear and consistent communication within the business
Whenever there is a trust issue, we often observe, delivery, frequency, timing, content and tone of workplace communication may have caused the difficulty.
Communication which builds trust between groups needs to be regular, consistent, clear, and tailored to the audience needs.
Predictability of communication, respect for the audience, listening, fully answering concerns and acknowledging communication responses, serves to build trust.
2. Clarity of Expectations
Communication and understanding of the business’ shared purpose, values, required performance, acceptable behaviours, individual and group success measures, are essential to maintain clarity of expectations.
Clarity of expectations in a business guides action, aids conflict resolution, fosters cooperation and promotes trust both within, and external to the business.
3. Demonstrated values and respect
Showing respect, sharing and helping others, offering support, keeping commitments, being honest and reliable; builds competency, capacity, integrity; and helps manage business continuity risk and fosters trust.
4. Appropriate delegation and support
Appropriate delegation and support from managers and team leaders is an often over-looked tool in developing and maintaining trust.
Delegation and support of tasks [particularly involving new tasks or new technology] have an immediate impact on an individual in developing [or undoing] their competence, capacity and trust.
Appropriate delegation and support requires skilled assessment of an individual’s capacity to undertake a task, the performance and timeframes required, the inherent levels of risk and any support or resources required.
In this way a continuous loop is created: commencing with clear and constant communication; having clarity of expectations about task, behaviour and results; which in turn develops competence, capacity and trust.
Today, trust can be measured through customer and people engagement surveys which are very easy and cost effective to implement with online technology. Zenworkz can measure levels of trust within and external to a business, as an essential part of improving performance. If you would like an obligation free quote, contact Zenworkz.
Author: Brian Bassham, Principle Consultant, Zenworkz