Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Business Value of Developing Trust

Trust is one of the primary essentials to the success of any team.

Outstanding teams will inevitably deliver exceptional performance when the element of trust is present and strong within the culture. Trust is, of course, the belief that those who you depend on in your team will meet your expectations. When trust is present, your team members will work effectively together, share information freely, share challenges and mistakes, admit lack of knowledge, and commit themselves to the success of the team. It’s easier to build trust when working in the same physical environment because you will be exposed to many visual clues. Researchers say that people often take less than four minutes to make a trust judgment based on someone’s voice, body language, and words. However, in today’s business arena, there are times where a team is functioning remotely and developing trust can never be forgotten or pushed to the wayside.

When people fail to work well together, it is often because there is no trust. When there is no trust, there is fear and suspicion, and these are a major deterrent to innovation and results. Without trust, the best and brightest ideas never surface. Even worse, when there is fear and suspicion, commitment goes away. Commitment and fear are almost mutually exclusive.

Trust can never be mandated, as it must always be earned. There must be honest, complete, and open communication delivered in a way that fosters mutual respect. Your employees must feel free to ask questions with the confidence they will receive support and the necessary information. Each employee must also feel free to openly express his or her thoughts and feelings. There can be no hidden agendas or clandestine activities. An effective leader must become an expert at ensuring that everyone is kept informed and feels that they are in on things.

In his book, Building Productive Teams, Glenn Varney introduces what he calls the Trust Cycle as a means of showing how leadership can prevent cynicism and establish trust. The Trust Cycle shows “Trust is developed from adequate to total information so that the individual can influence or make decisions, which builds more trust.”

There are many factors and behaviors that build trust, and even though developing trust is a very individual experience, research has shown there are some common factors which help create an environment of trust. Trust can be enhanced when a leader focuses on building strong relationships with and among the team. Review the following categories and concepts as it relates to your department, team, or business unit. What can you do to build stronger relationship and deeper trust within your team? How will it impact the overall results?

Results: All team members are focused on and produce results, exceed customers expectations, meet delivery times, and measurable results are documented.

Integrity: Team members can be trusted to mean what they say when they say it, show commitment to the team, do what they say they will do, communication is essential, and behavior is in the best interest of the team.

Change: Team members are willing to change and adapt, open to other view points, and are flexible.

Empathy: Putting yourself in a team member’s shoes and showing care and concern are culturally sensitive, and sensitive to the impact of all decisions.

Trust is difficult to gain, but easily lost. Building trust requires consistent and ongoing commitment from management. It requires executive sponsorship in the form of authentic leadership. There is no room for missteps.

The results are worth it.


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