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  • Writer's pictureSusan Robertson

4 Tips to Improve Organizational Trust

Organizational trust is the confidence your workforce has in your company. This includes the confidence your employees have in the strategic direction of your organization and how well leadership lives and breathes the mission, purpose, and values of the business. There are many factors associated with organizational trust, and leadership behavior plays an important role in ensuring trust exists and is maintained in any enterprise.


What is Organizational Trust


With over 31 years of experience helping organizations and leaders build organizational trust, we've learned there are six factors that play a key role in determining low or nigh trust levels:


  • Consistent and clear messaging. This is when the workforce has the same understanding of any message leadership is sharing.

  • Perceived fairness and whether or not people feel they are treated fairly.

  • Equality is where people are given a fair opportunity to succeed.

  • Valuing differing perspectives. When people are given the opportunity to be listened to and heard, this increases organizational trust.

  • Empowerment not only gives people the opportunity to perform their best but also an extension of trust. It means the leader trusts the employee.

  • Interpersonal conflict and how web conflict is addressed. If an interpersonal conflict or poor behavior is tolerated, trust goes down.


In the article, The Enemies of Trust, published in the Harvard Business Review, February 2023, "The building blocks of trust are unsurprising: They're old-fashioned managerial virtues like consistency and clear communication."


Additionally, another study of 3070 faculty members working in 73 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) conducted by James Hollanger Vineburg revealed that "higher levels of empowerment, higher levels of support for innovation, and lower levels of interpersonal conflict were associated with higher levels of organizational trust."


Why is Organizational Trust Important


Organizational trust provides a competitive advantage for any organization. Trust is the foundation of the relationship between people. Without trust, there is no relationship, or there is an adverse relationship. Organizational trust:


  • Increases collaboration.

  • Improves leadership and alignment.

  • Accelerates performance.


Derailers of Trust


If trust plays such an important role in organizational performance and provides a competitive advantage, how is trust broken? When managers and leaders become over-controlling, trust is lost. There is no empowerment, respect for different ideas and views, or equality and fairness. According to another study cited in The Journal of Corporate Transformation, when there is an atmosphere of trust, "there is less need for formal control mechanisms and monitoring." When employees feel trusted, they reciprocate trust and become inspired to perform.


Lack of consistency and integrity are trust derailers. To have solid trust in the business, the leadership of the business, and the strategy of the company, all leaders must demonstrate and role model the mission, values, and purpose of the company.


What You Can Do to Create Trust


Here are four tips you can use to build and create organizational trust:


  • Create an atmosphere of trust by talking about the issues of distrust. At Linceis Conscious Business, we help clients identify issues of distrust between people, and we facilitate a conversation that helps clarify what happened to cause distrust, the adverse impact that distrust is having on the relationship and the leam, and the behavioral change that people need to make to rebuild trust. We often say that to build trust; we talk about the issues that created the distrust. This is not an easy exercise because having a conversation around distrust issues involves listening and feedback.

  • Create a feedback climate. Feedback is an important way to develop people, keep the lines of communication open, generate alignment, kill rumors, and improve performance. At Linceis Conscious Business, we call feedback, replaying the tape. After playing the game, every good sports team replays and reviews their game's tape. Sports teams and individual players look for the strengths and weaknesses in executing their game strategy and how well they individually perform. As a leader, take the time and help your team replay their tape and then create action plans for your team's next level of effectiveness. Feedback and truth-telling increase trust.

  • Extend trust. As a leader, if you are over-controIing and don't empower others, you are not extending trust. We often near the excuse that leaders are over-controlling micro-managers because they want to avoid failure. In fact, the opposite is true; when leaders micro-manage, they can cause lower performance. Instead, empower others by developing them. Train, teach, and mentor your workforce so that you can give them more responsibility, accountability, and authority to perform.

  • Keep your commitments. Nothing breaks trust quicker than a lack of follow-through. When we renege on our promises, we teach others not to trust us. When we renege on our commitment, people lose confidence in us. Our people can't depend on us when we don't follow through.


Remember, when a positive and trusting relationship between leadership and the workforce improves alignment and performance. Likewise, improving yourself as a leader by empowering others with less control, being fair and equitable, providing clear and consistent messaging, and developing will lead to increased collaboration, team alignment, and improved bottom-line results.


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