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Management Perspectives

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Trust, the way

by David Horsager
Indian Management May 2021

Summary: Most training and development solutions do not last or even solve the real issue hindering your business’s success. Kickstarting a successful trust-building effort across your organisation requires attention on both the initial impact and the ongoing reinforcement.

Most training and development solutions do not last or even solve the real issue hindering your business’s success. Kickstarting a successful trust-building effort across your organisation requires attention on both the initial impact and the ongoing reinforcement.

Make an initial impact
The first step to take is to create a shift in thinking around trust.

Most people think trust is an ambiguous, complex concept that you either have or you don’t. In reality, trust is the leading indicator of success and it can be actively built.

At the core, every leadership and organisational problem is a trust problem. Consider this: how long does it take you write an email to someone you trust? Hardly any time at all. What about sending an email to someone you do not trust? Writing, re- writing, and wondering how they might interpret the message is an enormous waste of time.

A lack of trust is the greatest expense of every organisation. It costs time, turnover, productivity, and efficiency. When the core issue of trust is solved, everything changes. Employee engagement increases. Turnover time decreases. Customer referrals multiply.

But how do you actually build trust? 8 Pillars of Trust gives a framework for a lasting trust-building effort. Research involving trust found eight common traits to the most successful leaders and organisations of all time. These eight traits are also called pillars because they support the great advantage of being trusted.

Pillar #1 – Clarity
Why clarity? People trust the clear and distrust the ambiguous.

One idea to increase clarity: set daily priorities ahead of time and communicate expectations using the ODC Method—get specific on the outcome and deadline, then ask clarifying questions to ensure alignment of clear expectations.

Pillar #2 – Compassion
Why compassion? People put trust in those who put others’ interests ahead of their own.

One idea to increase compassion: Practice the LAWS of Compassion: Listen, Appreciate, Wake-up and be present in conversation, and Serve Selflessly.

Pillar #3 – Character
Why character? People trust those who do what is right over what is easy.

One idea to increase character:
Establish the top five personal values by which you make decisions so that people know what to expect from your character.

Pillar #4 – Competency
Why competency? People trust those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable. One idea to increase competency:
Systemise ongoing learning in your life and work. Read books and articles. Find a mentor. Listen to podcasts. Whatever methods you choose, continue developing competency.

Pillar #5 – Commitment
Why commitment? People trust those who stand through adversity.

One idea to increase commitment:
Make and keep a commitment today. The fastest way to rebuild trust is to make and keep commitments.

Pillar #6 – Connection
Why connection? People want to follow, buy from, and be around positive relationships.
One idea to increase connection: Ask quality questions of a colleague this week. Not “How was your weekend?” or “What’s for lunch?” Instead ask open-ended questions that give opportunity to genuinely understand the person and his or her life.



Pillar #7 – Contribution
Why contribution? People immediately respond to results.

One idea to increase contribution: take a sticky note, write down the top five tasks you can achieve today that will help drive your top priorities forward. If possible, have a number attached to the task.

Pillar #8 – Consistency
Why consistency? People trust those who do the little things consistently.
One idea to increase consistency: Habits are a powerful way to demonstrate consistency in work and life. Choose a habit, write down its benefits, make a specific plan that you can enact right away. Then select someone who is willing and able to encourage you and hold you accountable.

Create a lasting impact
With the right resources, anyone can host an awesome event or create a buzz of excitement around a new initiative. The real challenge is making it last. Many employees have learned that training initiatives tend to be flavour-of-the-month methodologies that change with each new re-org. These are the four keys to a trust-building effort that makes a lasting impact:

1. The trainers. If you want a training initiative to stick, your leaders must be trusted. Others will only listen to the trust-building champions if theyare genuinely building and living the 8 Pillars of Trust for themselves. Employees can sense a fake from a mile.

2. The content. In an age of digital deception and surface-level solutions, people are looking for training that is grounded in proven research and that serves a purpose beyond the bottomline. Utilise validated content with established reliability in the marketplace, then leverage it to serve the common-good in addition to your business growth.

3. The proof. Your leadership team, employees, and clients need to see that it genuinely works. Benchmark trust inside your organisation, communicate often, report on what is working and what’s not. Ask for feedback and make improvements accordingly. When you ask for feedback and fail to act or communicate it, you lose trust

4. The reinforcement. Consistency is crucial. Your training effort must be consistently reinforced. Systemise trust-building into regular business rhythms so that your people develop an expectation for pushing forward a high-trust culture. For example, send weekly reflection questions, distribute monthly trust content, align quarterly strategic priorities with trust, and set annual goals that align with the 8 Pillars of Trust.

Case study
One multi-location health organisation built a high-trust culture resulting in a significant decrease in attrition. Here is how they did it: 1) They started by hosting an organisation-wide event to cast the vision and shift thinking around trust. 2) Once they had an aligned vision, they selected trusted individuals to carry the torch as ambassadors of building trust through onboarding curriculum and ongoing workshops that focused on the eight trust traits. 3) They demonstrated the proof by sharing measurable results on a regular basis; and 4) They reinforced trustbuilding by adding ‘pillar awards’ during their annual events to acknowledge and celebrate key individuals who were demonstrating exceptional trust practices.

When you are working to embed trust across your organisation, remember to facilitate a shift in thinking around trust, utilise the 8 Pillars, and implement the four keys to a successful trust-building initiative.

David Horsager is CEO, Trust Edge Leadership Institute, Trust Expert in Residence at High Point University, and author, Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars that Drive Results.

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