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Do Your People Trust Their Leaders?

July 23, 2019

I have a question: Do your people trust their leaders?

If you answered yes – that’s great your company is future ready!

There is science backed research that proves that a trust culture has higher rates of engagement and other benefits.

Paul J. Zak a Harvard researcher has researched the relationship between trust, leadership and organizational performance.

Zak discovered that people at high trust companies have 74% less stress, 13% fewer sick days, 50% higher productivity, 106% more energy and 40% less burnout.

Zak has found that there is a direct correlation between the amount of ‘feel good’ hormone oxytocin a person’s brain produces and the level of trust someone experiences.

With a decade of research Zak found that oxytocin levels decrease significantly when we feel stress.

His research also revealed a link between oxytocin levels and empathy which is an essential for a trust culture.

Empathy is a crucial future of work skill that is part of the human intelligence skills needed to increase connection and trust within teams.

Zak provides eight strategies or behaviors that induce trust within a culture.

A brief overview of the strategies includes:

1.    A culture of recognizing excellence – neuroscience proves that public recognition has the biggest impact on trust when it happens right after an employee meets a goal.

2.    Create ‘positive challenge stress’ by setting reasonable and attainable goals which boosts oxytocin and this creates deeper focus and collaboration.

3.    Empower a workplace of ‘choice’ where employees have autonomy over work and have control over their work environment.

4.    Invite employees to co design their job – employees thrive when give the opportunity to have input on projects, who they work with and how they work.

5.    Constant communication – trust increases with thorough and frequent communication. Daily communication with direct reports increases trust exponentially.

6.    Encourage intentional relationships – a LinkedIn study revealed that almost 50% of professionals believe that having work-friends are critical to their overall happiness.

7.    Provide whole person growth opportunities – trust is increased when an employee feels that he or she is being given comprehensive personal and professional development beyond technical development.

8.    Be open and vulnerable – trust increases when there is a commitment to truth and safety. Brene Brown has an excellent TED talk on the power of vulnerability as a way of being and building trust.

The only way to create the future of work is with a foundation of trust and to ensure that you as a leader or team member is invoking trust as well as an organizational focus on increasing trust within the workplace.

Some questions to ask about your current company culture are:

  1. Does our culture nurture safety for people to bring up concerns?

2.    Do we have a culture where it’s okay for people to fail?

3.    Does our culture encourage autonomy within a job?

4.    Are our leaders in our culture able to encourage different ways of working? (i.e./ remote/in office/etc.)

5.    Do our leaders coach and grow people?

6.    Do our leaders in our culture reward performance in a public way?

7.    Do we have a culture where we communicate often and openly?

8.    Do we care? do we have a culture that looks out for people and taking care of people while we go through change?

If you answered mostly ‘no’ then you already know you have a major challenge ahead.

Your ‘next’ quite simply would be to meet with the leadership and HR teams and make a huge commitment to creating a higher trust culture.

If you answered yes to some of the questions with a few ‘no’s’ you will want to use the questions that you answered ‘no’ to as your baseline for nextmapping your future in regard to shoring up a trust culture.

Trust is critical especially in the quickly changing world of work. With the increase of robotics, automation and AI many people are feeling worried about their work future and also fearful of losing money, autonomy and security.

As leaders, we need to take control of the future by leading the changes needed to create the future. Regardless of title everyone needs to take a lead in his or her personal future and also as an influencer in the company.

This article is excerpted from my book, “NextMapping – Anticipate, Navigate and Create The Future of Work”

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