Building Workplace Performance Through Trust

Working - Vietnam: Dec. 25, 2019

What can you do to build trust in the workplace?

Trust increases speed and thus lowers costs in businesses.

Building Trust with The Emotional Bank Account

‘You cannot prevent a major catastrophe but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, that has high morale, that knows how to behave and that trusts itself. One where people trust one another. In military training, the first rule is to instill soldiers with trust in their officers because without trust, they won’t fight.’  - Peter Drucker

One way you may consider building performance in your team is through building trust.

Teams and organizations that operate with high trust significantly outperform those who do not cultivate trust at the core of their culture. A Watson Wyatt study showed that high-trust companies outperformed low-trust companies in total return to shareholders — by 286%!

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In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni says that the first of the five dysfunctions is the absence of trust among team members. Essentially, he says, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.

What can you do to build trust in the workplace?

“Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different.’’ - Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO

It is firmly believed by many that trust isn’t a quality you either have or you don’t, it’s a learnable skill that is developed with practice.

Stephen M. R. Covey in his book The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything explains the first step towards building trust is self-trust (trusting yourself) or credibility. As the writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Self trust is the essence of heroism.”

Credibility is about developing the integrity, intent, capabilities, and results that make you believable, both to yourself and to others. Essentially, it boils down to two simple questions... 

Question 1. “Do I trust myself?"
Question 2. “Am I someone others can trust?”

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Research shows that many of us don’t follow through with the goals we set and don’t keep the promises and commitments we make to ourselves. For example, almost half of the western world set New Year’s resolutions, research shows that only 8 percent actually keep them. By doing this time after time the result will be repeated failure to make and keep commitments to ourselves which erodes our self-confidence and we lose trust in our ability to make and keep commitments. Thus, we fail to project the personal strength of character that inspires trust. We may try to borrow strength from position or association. But it’s not real. It’s not ours… and people know it. And whether we realize or not, that impacts the bottom line.

Although we all know it intuitively, research validates that a person’s self-confidence will affect his or her performance. This is one reason why Jack Welch of GE claimed that “building self-confidence in others is a huge part of leadership.”

The lack of Self Trust also undermines our ability to trust others. In the words of Cardinal de Retz, “A man who doesn’t trust himself can never really trust anyone else.”

The good news in all of this is that when we do make and keep a commitment to ourselves or set and achieve a meaningful goal, we build credibility and self-confidence within ourselves. The more we do it, the more confidence we have that we can achieve our goals, and are more likely to set new ones. The more we accomplish our goals, the more we trust ourselves.

Consider which ones of the following High Trust Behaviours would you like to change the most and why?

1. Straight Talking

8. Confront Reality

2. Demonstrate Respect

9. Clarify Expectations

3. Communicate with Transparency

10. Practice Accountability

4. Right Wrongs

11. Listen First

5. Show Loyalty

12. Keep Commitments

6. Deliver on Promises and Achieve Results

13. Extend Trust

7. Get Better

 

Trust increases speed and thus lowers costs in businesses

The result from the 41 Country Study of Paul Zak and Stephen Knack also shows “In all cases, the countries with the highest trust levels have the highest per capita incomes and GDPs. Because trust reduces the cost of transactions, high-trust societies exhibit better economic performance than low-trust societies.”

High trust also increases speed and thus lowers costs in businesses and organisations too. A lot of people around the world trust in FedEx to deliver them goods overnight. But have you considered that your trust in them is a major part of why they’re so fast at delivering in the first place? Since many people trust in FedEx to deliver the next day, they must move hundreds of thousands of packages and orders each day – as people buy, and they buy fast. The speed with which FedEx receives incoming orders at scale is what endows it with the flow of financial capital it needs to not only pay for overnight drivers or book special air freight services, but also create systems that will lower the average cost and time per delivery.

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Since 9/11 the average airport security checks take 90 minutes, as opposed to approximately 30 minutes before. The trust in airplane passengers has gone, making the whole process of checking each passenger slower, and leads to an increased cost for personnel and machinery.

Building Trust with The Emotional Bank Account

An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor describing the amount of trust that has been built up in any relationship. It represents how safe you feel with or around another person.

Much like the idea of having a savings accounts flood with cash or real estate investments with large equity balances – which are all great things – there is another type of account that probably affects your life much more significantly. This account is measured by your trust. It is an emotional bank account and we are regularly making deposits into it and take withdrawals when we need to. A deposit represents someone doing a caring act for us or making us feel safe and accepted. A withdrawal will be somebody showing us malice, bad intent or aggression and represents us losing trust in that person.

We make similar kinds of deposits and withdrawals in our relationships at work into our Emotional Bank Accounts. When the balance is high, so is the resulting level of trust, and so is your ability to achieve the results that you are measured by. When the balance is low, trust is low, the quality of your work will decrease and suffer, and ultimately your work relationships can suffer also.

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To build a strong, healthy balance with the people with whom you work, follow these important points:

1. Never deposit to withdraw - While there are similarities between a traditional bank account and an Emotional Bank Account, you should never accumulate a high emotional balance in order to make planned withdrawals later. I know a colleague who kept a box of thank you notes in his office because he had developed an unhealthy habit of using them to build a reservoir of goodwill before dumping a big project on someone. This approach is exactly how not to utilize the Emotional Bank Account as your attempts to show good intent will be seen through quickly and will not be well received.

2. Know the other person’s currency - Like trying to deposit British Pounds into a Chinese bank account, you are sure to raise eyebrows and cause confusion. Understand how to change your tones and words to communicate with certain people and make an effort to ‘speak their language’. If done correctly this will instantly gain you their trust. Take time to learn what the important people in your workplace (aka your boss, your cubicle mate, your best clients) consider a deposit.

3. Communicate your own currency - You cannot expect people to read your mind. In the fast-paced world of work, it can cost you plenty if you do. Clarify and communicate your expectations before, during, and after every project. Doing so sets everyone up for success as showing trust in them builds rapport and understanding.

4. Small and consistent deposits over time are more powerful than occasional, large deposits - Relationships grow in security and trust when they are built with frequent, meaningful contributions rather than an occasional grand gesture. This stockpile can be invaluable when the unintentional but inevitable “you-know-what” hits the fan, and you need to draw from the deep well of deposits to turn a sticky situation around.

5. Right wrongs - A piece of Eastern wisdom says, “if you’re going to bow, bow low”. In other words, when you mess up, make a sincere apology. There is nothing more meaningful than admitting a mistake without making excuses for it. This shows humility and vulnerability, and will build strong trust.

Good luck with your journey in building performance in your workplace!

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