Trust is crumbling all around us. With every promise made and then broken. With every mass layoff with little or no transition plan. With every refusal for fair negotiation that results in a strike. Trust is lost. Without trust, leadership falls back on position and power resulting in limited engagement and minimal productivity. Employees doing just enough to keep from getting fired and the best and brightest ones leaving for greener pastures.

Trust is measurable and has a profound effect on the bottom line. If the best and brightest leave, then who is left to do the work? How much time, effort and resources must be used to find their replacements and then how much productivity is lost while they become familiar with the new job and all the tasks required?

When it comes to leading others, when it comes to getting the best out of others, they have to know you have their best interests at heart. They have to know they can trust you. As John Maxwell says “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” You can’t talk your way out of a situation you acted your way into. What takes many right actions to build up only takes one wrong move to destroy trust.

Building trust is a process. Consider this:

The number one reason people leave their jobs is….their poor relationship with their boss. Only 36% of employees believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity. One of the fastest ways to restore and build trust is to make and keep commitments, even small ones. We do this for ourselves, we begin to trust ourselves. And if we cannot trust ourselves then why should anyone else?

Factors that impact trust are character and competence.

“The world is changing very fast. Big will no longer beat small. It will be the fast beating the slow.” Rupert Murdoch the irony of this quote is that Rupert sacrificed trust for speed which in turn cost him both speed and money. With trust is built on integrity and character. You can cut corners to speed things up but in the end, it comes back to bite you.

When I was working with one client, he shared with me how he had cut corners to save on a project that was running way over budget. In the end he had to spend even more to fix the mistakes and fix the shortcuts that had caused even more damage. These were some very sensitive and vulnerable moments around mistakes he had made the consequences of them. To me, that meant that he really trusted me to share it with me and allow me to coach him through it as well so he could respond better next time.

Consistency communicates character in ways that never can. How we behave in good times and bad demonstrates who we are. Employees need to trust each other as well as their leadership. Employees constantly watch their leadership to see how decisions will affect the strategic direction of the organization and if their behaviors reflect what they say. If employees feel like they are walking on eggshells all the time because they never know when or where the direction will suddenly change then they lose faith in their leaders ability to safely guide the organization.

Competence comes down to the intention of your actions and your ability to deliver results. If the intention of the actions were clearly honourable, trust is not impacted immediately unless there are repeat incidences. It can eat away at trust like dry rot in wood. And the ability to deliver results or not has a much more dramatic impact on trust.

You may trust your mechanic to fix your car but do you trust him to perform your open heart surgery? They may both be competent but only in their given field of expertise.  Keep people working in their strength zone, including the leadership team and watch trust soar.

What are the signs of trust and mistrust for you? How do you know when to trust someone? What does it look like? What does it look like when someone trusts you?  When are you able to forgive transgressions of trust?

There is always a cost for the lack of trust. And there are ways to rebuild it too. An organization that can tap into the innovation that comes from an engaged and trusting workforce is one that can stand the test of time because it can keep up with the ever increasing pace of change.

Technique and technology are important, but adding trust is the issue of the decade – Tom Peters

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