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The best way to build trust in the workplace

Employees in high-trust organisations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues.

Here are some ways leaders can maintain and grow trust:

Be consistent in your actions

Building trust is all about setting clear expectations and being consistent. In a landmark speech on the Anatomy of Trust, professor and social scientist, Brené Brown, says trust is earned in the smallest of moments. “It’s not done through heroic deeds or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and genuine care and connection.”

Empathy and understanding of one another’s situations help to secure strong ties as a team. During school closures in the UK leaders shared videos of their home life, revealing their homeschooling challenges making it easier for team members to be more open.

Remembering important events going on in your team’s lives especially demonstrates that you understand the difficult balance between work and family.

Assume positive intent

It’s very easy to lose our focus by allowing negative thinking to creep into our daily lives. Like a leaky sieve, distracting thoughts can occupy the mind and threaten productivity.

We live in the age of keyboard warriors and fake news, no wonder we find it hard to trust people.

But reacting negatively to everyday situations can make matters at work worse.

This is because we’re prone to a social psychology phenomenon known as a fundamental attribution error ­– a tendency to put our colleague’s behaviour down to their character rather than a situation beyond their control.

A simple example might be the next time person A presents at work on a zoom call. There is a technical error and it takes some time for the presentation to go ahead. Fundamental attribution errors mean you are likely to judge that behaviour down to an aspect of their personality or character, rather than the situation they found themselves in (ie. a bad wi-fi connection). If person A feels blamed for this action, then this can lead to frustration and disengagement.

Recognising our human tendencies and changing mindsets are lessons to be learned here.

Chairman and CEO of Pepsi Indra Nooyi explained in this article why changing this mindset helps teams build trust.

“When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying. “Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.”

With positive intent, you are open to vulnerability and looking for common ground by choosing to listen.

Create a safe environment in which to work

Ever been in meetings where people are fearful of speaking up?

Psychological Safety at work is about creating a place where team members feel empowered to speak up, to share failures as well as suggest new ideas. Many companies suffer the reverse with people more likely to stay silent than to speak up.

Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson, who’s researched the subject for years, says moments of silence happen among teams at all levels. Studies show people frequently hold back even when they believe what they say could be of value to an organisation.  “From an HR perspective, the losses from this silence are as large as they are invisible.”

Relationships will grow in places where psychological safety is offered.

Training people to create, develop and lead high trust teams

Good managers will use a number of tried and tested tools and techniques to build trust. They will not only recognise their own role in this but also those of other team members. In our view, much of this comes down to effective communication so that collaboration and engagement levels remain high even if the workforce is split into into different workplaces.

This is where training can assist from emotional intelligence (EQ) to understanding how to give and receive both positive and negative feedback.

Ultimately trust is an essential part of building a successful workplace. Hopefully, these ideas will give you some useful pointers on how to build it. If you’d rather have a chat about what you’re looking for, then please get in with Abby Hodder.

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