Trust and the Bottom Line: Part Five
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6 Ways to Optimize Performance Through Openness & Accountability

By: Ethan Schutz

Building, Restoring, and Maintaining Trust: Examining the Process

Having articulated the value of trust in the workplace, examined the root causes of trust issues, and performed a preliminary exploration of what’s necessary to build trust, it is time to turn our attention to the process of building, restoring, and maintaining a company culture of trust. There are 5 necessary steps to consider:

Promote Self-Awareness and Awareness of Others

The behaviors that diminish trust in the workplace don’t just happen. There’s always a reason why people act the way they do. Unproductive behaviors are the result of emotions and beliefs that are not usually acknowledged or addressed. By recognizing and understanding our own individual motivations, as well as what’s driving the behavior of the people we work with, it becomes possible to solve problems in a methodical way.

Tell Your Truth

Speaking honestly about one’s personal experiences directly to another person is one of the most powerful ways to build, rebuild, or maintain trust.

Have Uncomfortable Conversations

Talking about the ‘undiscussable’ interpersonal issues calmly and directly helps people work past what may have seemed like permanently irreconcilable differences.

Build Experience Working Together

There is no substitute for direct communication and honest interaction. Creating experiences with each other builds trust, while avoidance erodes it.

Prepare, Practice, and Learn

Building trust within your company culture requires speaking honestly and directly, especially in difficult situations. This is not something most of us have done, nor have we learned how to do it. Practice builds skills and confidence. Ensure that there is adequate time and space to practice, give and receive feedback, and learn from our mistakes.

The Return on Trust Building Efforts

Because building, restoring and maintaining trust is an ongoing process that requires commitment, dedication, and time, it is important to know that it is worth the effort. The ramifications of eroded trust are broad and long lasting, and it can be difficult to articulate the exact financial impact, but even limiting ourselves to the most conservative figures reveals that the potential return is well worth the investment.

For example, if trust is improved such that meeting times can be reduced by 10%, over the course of a year, this decrease will make a substantial financial difference and increase productivity, because it effectively adds several hours of available weekly work time for an entire team.

It is not always easy to build and maintain trust, particularly in environments where interpersonal conflicts have been a significant challenge. Time, thought, care, and persistence are all required. There is an element of risk involved, and that current workplace norms are in many ways the exact opposite of what is ideal for building trust. We know that trust is even harder to build and maintain when we communicate at a distance, via technological channels. Trust is also a product of time. This is a problem when everyone’s perpetually in a hurry. We work more than we ever have yet are experiencing increased isolation. Without spending time together, it is harder for us to be fully understood. However, dedicating the time to creating and maintaining trust pays off. Trusting ourselves and others delivers in terms of money, time, creativity, productivity, relationships and satisfaction. The bottom line is that trust is an investment with immense returns.