Advance Performance | “How to Build a Culture of Trust in Your Business” by Heather Wright
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“How to Build a Culture of Trust in Your Business” by Heather Wright

“How to Build a Culture of Trust in Your Business” by Heather Wright

“Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” – Stephen R. Covey

It has long been perceived that the so called “soft skills” belong in the fluffy, unverifiable realm of HR bods; something we at Advance have always been in firm disagreement with. We have always taught that these skills are scientific and quantifiable and finally the rest of the world seems to be catching up!

The January/ February edition of Harvard Business Review includes an article “The Neuroscience of Trust” (by Paul J Zak) which discusses the relationship between the neurochemical Oxytocin and feelings of trust and how these can be used to increase productivity.

Zak first demonstrates a direct and reciprocal relationship between production of Oxytocin and feelings of trust and how introduction of one can directly increase the other. After this, the article focuses on relevant studies conducted by the author which, by interviewing employees at dozens of large companies, establishes that trust linked with a sense of purpose at work is correlated with and mutually reinforced by happiness with a correlational value of 0.77.

The author’s studies also discovered that employees that worked for companies that exhibited a high level of mutual trust between employees and management when compared with employees at “low-trust” companies reported 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives and 40% less burnout. Those, I think, are results that any manager would be absolutely ecstatic with!

I run courses every week for staff in organisations big and small and their constant cry about their desire to feel empowered and trusted to make the right decisions.  When I talk to the line managers, their moan is that they want their people to be accountable and make decisions. There needs to be common ground somewhere. They both want the same thing, so where is the problem? Surely the issue must be one of three options:

a) Managers don’t trust their people
b) Managers do trust their people but don’t know how to show it or;
c) Employees aren’t hearing the message

Here are five easy take-away tips for building a culture of trust in your own business:

1. Induce “Challenge Stress” – Essentially providing teams with difficult but achievable tasks provides and oxytocin release (and therefore an increase in trust and happiness) when they accomplish them.

2. Giving people discretion in how they do their work – Apparently nearly half of employees would forego a 20% pay raise for greater control over how they work. Autonomy promotes innovation which leads to progress.

3. Share information broadly – Only 40% of employees report that they are well informed about their companies goals. This uncertainty leads to stress which inhibits oxytocin and undermines teamwork

4. Intentionally build relationships – Oxytocin is a pair bonding hormone and so fostering relationships between staff increases trust and productivity. Essentially people work harder when they work with people they like because they don’t want to let them down.

5. Show vulnerability – Essentially people trust managers more when they seem human, asking for help builds credibility.

In his conclusion, Zak says: “It’s not about being easy on your employees or expecting less from them. High-trust companies hold people accountable but without micromanaging them. They treat people like responsible adults.”

Further Reading on the subject by the author:

Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies by Paul J Zak