Four Strategies to Increase Trust across Your Organization

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Contributor / Cecily Cooper

Associate Professor of Management
University of Miami School of Business Administration / Organizational Behavior

Trust is a two-way street, because engendering trust as a leader means first trusting your team. Cooper breaks this down into three practical steps: ensure a sense of fairness in the workplace, give your employees autonomy, and demonstrate faith in their abilities by promoting from within. Now you’ve built trust as a leader, but maintaining it when a scandal surfaces is another ordeal altogether. The advice is simple and effective---speak up and act quickly.

Transcript

Well, trust and leadership has been shown time and time again to relate to many key outcomes, such as employee job performance, helping behaviors, and job attitudes.

So, as a senior leader, you want to do anything that you can to increase trust in leadership across levels of the organization.

Now, one of the first key things that you can do is make sure that you treat your employees fairly because fairness engenders trust.

So, if employees feel that they’re being paid fairly, that decisions are made in a consistent and unbiased fashion, and that they’re treated with dignity and respect, then chances are they’re going to trust you.

Now, on the other hand, if you hear employees complaining that things are just not fair, then chances are they don’t trust you. And so, that’s one key thing to remember.

Second, you have to make sure that your words and your actions are aligned—so, there has to be consistency between what you say and what you do.

Third, transparency is really important. And by transparency, I mean that you need to communicate as openly and frequently as possible with employees and also give them as much information as possible.

And the last thing that I would like to mention, and this is a little different because most research on trust has been looking at employees trusting their leaders and why that’s important for so many reasons, but now we also know that it’s really important that employees feel trusted, that employees feel that their leaders trust them.

And since trust is a reciprocal process, if the employees feel that the leaders trust them, they’re also more likely to trust their leaders.

So, then the next question is, but how can a manager signal that they trust their employees? There’s a lot of different things that they can do.

They can give their employees more responsibility, more autonomy; don’t micromanage, don’t monitor—overly monitory—your employees.

And if there are positions that need to be filled in the organization, promote from within; don’t hire externally.

Bumper: Understanding How a Trust Breach Is a Matter of Perspective

If you’re a leader and you’re accused of something, there are two questions that you should consider.

The first is, are you actually guilty?—because if you’re not guilty, then it benefits you to deny as quickly as possible, and also, if there is any exonerating evidence, to also offer that evidence to support your denial.

But what if you actually are guilty? Well, there’s a second important question.

And that is, was the transgression (that is, what you’re guilty of doing) a result of a lapse in competence versus integrity?—because research tells us that integrity-related issues are much more difficult to overcome than competence-related issues.

But at the same time, perception of the specific event can be malleable.

For example, if you just made an honest mistake or you did not have adequate knowledge and that’s why you didn’t prepare the tax return correctly, that’s a very different issue in other people’s minds than if you were trying to misrepresent the taxes.

Bumper: How “No Comment” Elicits Distrust

You don’t want to remain reticent on the issue; in other words, it’s really risky to not respond.

The problem is that even if people just hear an accusation, they’re likely to passively believe it unless they’re given a reason not to.

But the tricky thing for leaders is there could be a lot of reasons that they don’t want to respond. So, there could be legal reasons that they should not respond, or if they respond, they know that they might implicate a third party.

And so, for a lot of these reasons, you will see people delay responding or say, “No comment”—which is very frequently used.

Now, the intention might be to get people to delay judgment for a while. But what research shows is that instead of delaying judgment, people actually are more prone to make judgments and come to the worst possible conclusions.

By remaining silent on the issue, you’re not doing anything to mitigate this accusation of guilt by denying, and you’re not apologizing, so you’re not expressing any remorse.

And so, what happens is then people will think that you are in fact guilty, and you’re also not remorseful.

Keep up with the latest insights on trust

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Change is inevitable. Having a picture of where you've been helps manage change as it occurs.

Building Team Trust to Manage Change at Work

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Contributor / Grover Wray
Grover Wray Human Resources Human Resources,Mergers and Acquisitions,Reputation Management,Social Psychology As a Chief Human Resource Officer, trust is fundamental to being able to ensure that employees are engaged, they are motivated by what they do and they can contribute a degree of value back to the organization, and in return the organization gives them a degree of value. And when that equation of value that the person gives to the organization is equal to the value that the organization is giving to them, then you have trust. That’s what trust is built on. And so as a Chief Human Resource Officer it’s absolutely critical to ensure that you are effectively building mental maps for all of your team members starting with those who come into the organization on day one.

Essentially a mental map is an ability for somebody to be able to anticipate and to expect what might happen. An example, a simple example would be driving to and from work. If we drive to and from work every day the same way, very soon we have a route. We don’t think about what we’re doing; we just start to drive and the next thing you know you’ve arrived at your destination and you find that you arrived without even giving a thought to how you got there.

BUMPER: Understanding Trust through Mental Maps


When I was first introduced to this idea of mental maps it was through the work that I was doing with Arthur Anderson. I got a phone call one day from a partner who said, “We are thinking about outsourcing this accounting function and I was visiting with the CEO of this company and he said you’ve put a lot of effort and time into making sure that the technical transition of this work goes smoothly. But if you’re going to be in this business full-time you better put as much attention to how you manage the people as you do the technical transition.”

I ended up visiting with the CEO and ended up visiting with all of the team members and that’s when the light bulb went on for me. It was the CEO who understood the dynamic of what was happening to his team members who had an expectation, a trust, and this trust was a very significant trust because it was in a small town. It was a few team members.

And it was at that moment that I realized that these employees could not go through a transition like this without understanding the expectations of what a new company was going to provide to them. And it was then that I realized the power of that mental map and applied that in every situation that we encountered after that, and in every situation almost to a T that process or principle worked very well, because you were addressing exactly what the issues were and the uncertainty that gets created when a mental map gets destroyed.

BUMPER: 5 Steps to Building Trust During Mergers

I realized that principle of a mental map was exactly what was needed inside a merger and acquisition or significant change situation. An employee was in an uncertain moment when all of a sudden the mental map that they had built about themselves and from the company was now gone. The trust that the organization had placed in them and they had placed in the organization was now gone. And without replacing that trust with a new map that would build new trust you would never gain the emotional commitment of the team members.

As a leader, the first thing you have to understand is the very first question that somebody has to have answered for them before you can provide any more information to them is: Do I have a job?

The next layer of that foundation is: What are my salary and benefits?

If that question is answered then the third question in that layer of questions becomes: Who is my manager?

And then the fourth question in that layer is: What is my team or who is my team? Who will I be interacting with?

And then the fifth layer, which is the most important layer, but it’s the last layer – (which is somewhat counterintuitive) is the culture. What is the culture of the organization like? What are the values of the organization? If you start with culture, which sometimes we might tend to do because we want that to be seen as a very positive thing, that’s good but I still don’t know whether I have a job. And so it’s not going to resonate with me until you answer those other foundational questions.

Follow that pattern through, and each of those pieces of the pattern put another piece into the mental map until you have sufficiently formed a mental map for that individual as they move into a new environment.
Why We Need Trust In Negotiations

Why We Need Trust in Negotiations

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Contributor / Jeanne Brett
Jeanne Brett Negotiations Swift Trust,Communication,Vulnerability BUMPER: Signaling Trustworthiness

I’d like to distinguish between swift trust and slow trust. Swift trust means I don’t know you—I may not even know you by reputation—but I assume you’re a professional. I assume that you are benevolent; I assume that you’re trustworthy.

And I signal that information to you. And then you come back to me, usually, by reinforcing me and indicating that, yeah, I made the right call about you. It’s hard to not fulfill someone’s trusting expectations of you.

In slow trust, there’s no assumption that the other party is trustworthy. In slow trust, it’s slow; it takes time to develop trust. What that means is, people have to have experience with each other, gain familiarity with each other, have that experience where I make myself a little vulnerable and you don’t take advantage of me.

Slow trust builds slowly over time. Swift trust happens quickly. One is just more efficient than the other in negotiations. So, it’s understandable that many people are reluctant to take the swift-trust risk.

BUMPER: Positive Outcomes with More Trust & Vulnerability

Two sisters are both in the kitchen; they’re both cooking; and they have need for an orange. And they only have one orange.

So, the sisters get into a fight: “I want the orange.” “No, I want the orange; you can’t have the orange.” And there’s no solution because half an orange is not going to satisfy either sister.

They get nowhere until they take that single issue of who gets the orange and say, “Why do you want the orange?” And then they learn that one sister wants the orange for the rind, and the other sister wants the orange for the juice.

Now, if they had just taken half an orange, neither one of their recipes would have come out. But by finding out why they wanted the orange—those are those interests in negotiations—they were able to both win, if you will.

What happens is, in negotiations—even if it looks like it’s a single issue, or many negotiations are multi-issue—what you have to understand is where the other party is coming from, what’s motivating the other party, what’s most important to the other party.

You’re not going to get everything you want in negotiation; you’re too interdependent for that. But if you find out what’s more important to the other party that’s somewhat less important to you, then you can begin to make a trade-off.

So, why do negotiators need to trust?—because as soon as I start revealing what’s important to me, you have the opportunity to take advantage of me.

So, I have to trust you that you won’t take advantage of me, which means we coach negotiators to share a little information about interests and priorities, ask for some information—comparable information—in return.

And then you can get this reciprocity going—sharing information—understand where the other party is coming from, make those trade-offs, and build high-quality agreements, like the two sisters and the orange.
Healthcare is an industry where measuring trust based on warmth just as much as competence can be beneficial.

Measuring Trust: Through Competence—or Warmth?

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Contributor / Adam Waytz
Adam Waytz Psychology Breaches,Distrust,Government,Leadership,Measurement,Reputation Management,Social Psychology BUMPER: Trust and First Impressions

I think what the research suggests is that first impressions go a long way and that people are making a decision about, “Do I trust this person? Do I trust this organization? Do I trust this brand?” relatively immediately.

And furthermore, trust is very difficult to restore once it is breached.

BUMPER: Warmth vs. Competence in Gauging Trust

So, the work of Susan Fisk and others has shown that warmth really predominates judgments of trustworthiness, more so than competence.

So, the first and the most important thing that people are basing their judgments of trust on are, “Do I feel that this is someone that’s benevolent? Is this a person or a company or a brand that’s kind, that’s good, that I would like to be friends with?”

The problem is, in the world of business, people tend to focus on conveying competence.

When they want to restore trust or when they want to gain people’s trust initially, businesses tend to focus on competence: letting people know that they’re intelligent, that they’re capable, that they have the ability to act on whatever their intentions are.

Consumers and people in the world and just people who are engaged in social life care about competence second. They care about warmth first. This is also important for leaders as well.

Amy Cuddy and colleagues wrote an article in Harvard Business Review that I like to refer to which is called “Connect, Then Lead.”

Often leaders think that they need to convey their competence to the organization above all else. But the most important thing is first to connect with subordinates and peers and other executives on this dimension of warmth.

I think why we focus so much on competence in the world of business is that competence is much easier to measure. We can see performance ratings; we can see sales numbers; we can see return on investment.

Competence is something that is very visible, so we tend to focus on what is visible and what’s quantifiable.

Warmth is something that feels a bit squishier, a bit more abstract, and even a bit less quantifiable, yet warmth is what people are really thinking about when they’re judging, “Do I trust this person? Do I trust this organization? Do I trust this brand?”

Now, some companies and some organizations have gotten much better at quantifying warmth or quantifying things like social responsibility: “How much is my organization engaged in fair practices towards its workers? Positive interactions with the community? Benevolent actions towards the environment?”

And we can start seeing the emergence of the corporate social responsibility scores. I think this is a step forward in organizations trying to capture warmth in a more quantifiable manner and then conveying that to potential consumers who really care about these dimensions.

Other pages in Videos:

Pages in The Trust Project at Northwestern University