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Is Your Road to Success Built on the Highway of Trust?


This past Monday, the Department of Transportation closed the road I live on to replace a bridge that was overdue for some repairs. Within one hour on a Monday morning, I watched them put up several signs in 500-meter increments indicating that the road was closed. They even put a sign at the beginning of the road that said “Road Closed: Local Traffic Only” to warn travelers that they would not be able to reach their destination without taking a detour. I found it interesting as each day for 5 consecutive days, there have been numerous vehicles turning around in our driveway.

As I watched the various cars turning around throughout the week, contemplating the process initiated by our DOT, it dawned on me that each of them was forced to turn around because they simply did not TRUST the signage placed there by the DOT.

You see, I believe we live in a society that has established a natural distrust of anyone in a Leadership role. To our dismay, this natural distrust is bleeding over into our organizations like an express train, so we have to ensure we are acting fast to create and maintain trust in our everyday lives.

Is Your Road to Success Built on the Highway of Trust?

Organizational Trust is the confidence of our workforce in the actions of your company. While this may include confidence in individual managers, it also extends to the overall organization including your vision, culture, and values. There are 5 dimensions to organizational trust.

  1. Competence: The knowledge and ability of the individual.

  2. Open & Honest Communication: readily sharing information between people in a transparent, honest, consistent, and dependable way. When employees openly communicate, they express their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and plans clearly and assertively.

  3. Concern for Employees: Recognizing that the matters which mean the most to employees include Workload, Work-life balance, Communication problems, Lack of recognition, Career growth opportunities, Workplace culture, Compensation, and Benefits

  4. Reliability/Consistency: Reliability is about the ability to produce the same result over time. Consistency is about how closely something conforms to a set standard or expectation.

  5. Sharing of Common Goals, Norms, and Values: Shared goals or values harness the combined power of each person’s perspective needs, and expertise to create a clear mutual path toward the goal. It unites!

As leaders, if we break any of these dimensions, then we are at risk of damaging that individual’s perception of trust.

How do you break these dimensions, you ask? Here are a few real-life examples:

  • Habitual lying

  • Dodging Responsibility

  • Being Unreliable

  • Engaging in Poor Communication

  • Exhibiting Self-Centeredness

  • Treating work as a Past time

  • Aversion to making Decisions

  • Tolerance to Misalignment

If you have found yourself, as a Leader, to be guilty of any of these examples, don’t worry, Trust can be rebuilt!

First, you must recognize that building trust takes hard work, and it must be earned. Throughout your interactions, make an effort to be honest and supportive of your employees.

Be Transparent! Be Quiet…..Sometimes, Be Consistent.

Model the Behavior you seek, Build in Accountability (for yourself and others!), and Extend Empathy to Others (As a leader you are going to need your employee’s grace, so be sure to extend the same grace to them when you can!)

As an organization, if you do not have a list of company values or an ethics policy, that is a great place to start! Identify what behaviors are most important for you and your team. Organizational values are the guiding principles that provide an organization with purpose and direction. They can assist with employees or customers. Once established, define what great performance in those areas looks like. Be sure to add those behaviors to your performance reviews, especially for your leadership team!

Organizational values should be clear, concise, brief, memorable, action-oriented, reflective, and adaptable for everyone involved.

As I work toward my conclusion and get back to my original example in the beginning, each vehicle that turned around in our driveway did so because they failed to heed the warnings provided to them. As a leader, if you are seeing signs in your organization that indicate there is a potential breach in your trust bank, DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS!

Take the time to sit back and evaluate. Is gossip rampant in your organization? Are there battles to get even between employees? Finger pointing???? (This is a big one and more common than you think!) Low engagement? High Turnover? These are all symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored.

Rebuilding to turn around can be done, but it has to be completed with that intention. It doesn’t just organically happen overnight. Strategically decide to actively rebuild the trust in your organization. Allow feelings and emotions (GASP!) to be discussed and addressed, get and give support, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY, forgive yourself and others, LET GO AND MOVE ON, in the right direction!

Then you will have opened the road to improvement for all your team!

Drive Safely everyone on the highway of trust!

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