Building a Culture of Trust

by Granville Triumph

According to Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer, only 43 percent of respondents trust CEOs. Just one in four believe business leaders are capable of solving problems, and only one in five trust them to tell the truth and make ethical decisions.

Without trust, there is always suspicion and speculation. Who has their own personal agenda? How far will they go to advance their career, raise their profile and increase their income with little regard for the good of the organization as a whole? This results in secretive communication, rumors and frustration, which hamper productivity and employee retention rates.

When there is a lack of trust in senior leadership, there tends to be a lack of trust throughout the organization. Even worse, this lack of trust extends beyond the company’s walls to shape external perceptions.

A culture of trust is an organizational asset that needs to be cultivated and managed from the top. It creates a perception of competence, both in leadership and the organization as a whole. When trust permeates the organization, it creates positive expectations and the belief that leadership has good and noble intentions. A culture of trust is noticed by customers, investors and the media, which can have a direct impact on the organization’s bottom line and brand image.

Internally, building a culture of trust rallies the troops, who believe everyone will benefit from the company’s success, not just a select few at the top. Employees develop a sense of comfort and safety, and a desire to strengthen that feeling by performing their jobs to the best of their abilities. They feel a closer bond with the organization and a greater sense of fulfillment when business goals are achieved. Each employee becomes more productive, reliable and loyal, which can result in a higher quality product or service delivered to customers.

There are certain characteristics that can build trust in leadership and create a culture of trust throughout the organization, according to the Edelman study:

  • Transparency. Always communicate clearly and openly as processes are developed and decisions are made.
  • Honesty. Tell the truth regardless of the situation, even if the truth isn’t what people want to hear.
  • Engagement. Discuss the state of your organization with employees on a regular basis and learn from their feedback.
  • Visibility. Take center stage, especially during challenging times that bring negative publicity.

Creating, cultivating and managing a culture of trust is essential to the success of any organization, from a large, international corporation to a local, family-owned business. Building relationships based on trust between leadership and employees, and between the organization and its customers, will provide a rock-solid foundation for long-term growth and stability.

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