Your Team Will Succeed Only if They Trust Each Other
Trust is difficult to establish, hard to maintain and easy to break.
Bureaucracy exists were trust doesn’t. Excessive process and micromanaging exist because people don’t trust each other to do what’s right and what’s needed. In a digital era where social tools make you more visible and accessible, you make personal and business decisions based on trust daily.
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, often identified as the benchmark of trust measurement, recently identified that there has been a “loss of trust: the willingness to believe information, even from those closest to us.”
Trust is difficult to establish, hard to maintain and easy to break. In business, trust is one of the most valuable and complex of all your assets. It solidifies your relationships with all people and leads an organization to thrive. As Richard Branson often says, "Learn to look out for your staff first, and the rest will follow."
Let me share with you eight principles that determine whom and how you trust in the workplace.
1. How people handle failure.
Within an organization, when people trust each other, their energy is invested in minimizing damage and getting on with it. The involved parties take responsibility without prompting and lead the conversation to see how the problem will be avoided in the future.
A recent Google study, Project Aristotle, was founded on the premise of understanding why certain teams in the workplace struggle while others thrive. Researchers determined that “psychological safety” is the key to building and fostering successful team.
When people don’t trust each other, blame and shame runs rapid through the tapestry of the organization. Taking responsibility embraces your vulnerability and leads people to move forward together.
Related: How 10 Billionaires Faced Failure
2. Accumulate trust deposits.
Trust is like a flower. Once we step on a flower, it’s difficult to revive it. When you think about trust within a workplace, we know that when members trust each other to execute, teams are inherently productive. When we want to create and build upon an environment that fosters trust, then what we say we will do, we do. We genuinely are curious and listen. We are honest in how we provided feedback, without the sugar coating. And we don’t engage in gossip, eradicating the “I shouldn’t be saying this, but…” conversations. When we are visible and transparent in the workplace, we create a platform that invites shared thinking from all.
3. Work together to solve pain points.
Most projects take more than one person to accomplish. Trusting colleagues is about letting go of the urge to be a lone ranger. Your team members have to be trusted to accomplish their tasks so you can complete yours. Autonomy is only possible where there is trust. When you trust, you don’t expend much of your time and energy watching your back. Your energy is directed towards productivity and innovation.
Horst Schultze, one of the founders of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels, epitomized what it meant to be a trust-building leader. Every employee was provided with an induction to the organization, coupled with extensive training and a $2000 discretionary fund they could use to solve a customer problem without checking with anyone. He honored his people by collecting their stories in making a difference for customers.
A team with high trust inspires its members to retain trust through excellence. Time is spent on identifying and breaking through road blocks, inspiring people to share more and working together to resolve pain points.
4. Small actions over time.
Trust is not a matter of technique, but of character. You are trusted because of your way of being, not because of your polished exteriors. Building a culture of trust in the workplace occurs one step at a time. It is the small actions over time. As a leader wanting to build trust, talk about what you want, not what you don’t want. Lend your voice toward what you want to bring to make it happen. When you operate from a place of trust, you demonstrate a commitment toward trust. You show others what can be by promoting the ideas, talents and contributions of those you work with. Focus on what people can do and help others succeed. Step toward trust from where you are.
5. Sharing stories.
Trust can grow rapidly when someone shares with you something touching that happened earlier in their life. You start to build a shared empathy. When you want to create trust in teams, initiate conversations or invest in team games that help you tell stories you want to tell. You control what you want to share with colleagues that can break down the divide between people and teams and lead to more empathy. Sharing stories is one way to connect and build trust.
6. What can mice teach us.
A study at NYU Langone showed that when mice were given oxytocin, they started caring for the other mice’s babies as if they were their own. The oxytocin hormone enhances bonding, and even after the mice’s oxytocin receptors were shut off, this behavior continued.
Oxytocin, the trust molecule, can teach us a lot about working together as a team and building great working relationships leading to more trust in the workplace.
Paul Zak’s iconic TED Talk and research on neuroscience and trust, identified that as long as there was an intention of trust, you would biologically associate that with trustworthiness, which boost your oxytocin.
The best way to build your team’s internal trust is to be transparent about the overall vision and progress of the business, showing people how and why their work is important. Leaders must provide guidance, schedule check-ins between colleagues, and make room for conversations that strengthen connections.
7. Monkey see, monkey do.
Our brains are wired to place survival as the top priority. In the workplace, any person who can demonstrate that they can reduce or eliminate threats to other’s survival is deemed trustworthy.
When we watch someone else, our brain is activated in the same way that the brain of the person you are observing is activated, effectively through what is called “mirror neurons.” This means you may unintentionally transfer your own feelings of distrust to others. The trick is you can’t fake trust. You must believe that your colleagues are trustworthy to transmit this signal to them. In return, their brain will start feeling trust towards you as a result.
8. Emotions impact trust levels in the workplace.
There are many ways to treat your colleagues well, but one of the most important initiatives is creating a culture that makes it safe to make mistakes and openly debate and discuss issues without fear of retribution. Your colleagues will trust your ability to help them grow if they know that failures will be treated as teachable moments.
In a time of crisis, how you act in difficult times is the greatest measure of your integrity. Don’t wait to talk about a mistake that happened until everyone finds out about it on social media, and don’t sugarcoat what happened. Take swift action to right a wrong. Taking responsibility preserves trust.
Atlassian, a global software giant, built a culture where articulating why certain decisions are made is important in how they have built trust. An “open company, no bullshit” value within the company has provided teams with access to information as quickly as possible, allowing employees to share and express their opinion without feeling they are going to get judged or pulled down. The company supports an environment where individuality is celebrated.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor