How can we build trust within our organization?

During tough economic times, I’m often asked how to build trust within an organization. People seem to be really down and don’t trust their leaders. I got the best advice about this from my friend Ichak Adizes, who used to be a professor at UCLA—a brilliant guy. He said, “You can’t talk about trust until you talk about respect.” There’s a nonverbal and verbal aspect of each of those. If I respect you, I face you, because I want to hear your opinion. If I don’t respect you, I turn my back on you, because I couldn’t care less what you think. But this it interesting—if I trust you, I’m willing to turn my back on you because I know you mean me no harm. If I don’t trust you, I face you because I need to watch your every move. So these two things work together. You can’t talk about building trust until you show respect. I’ve seen a lot of leaders who will go behind closed doors and start making decisions about other people’s lives. And the people outside the door don’t trust the intentions of the leaders inside; they think they’re in there to serve themselves.

One of the things we do to show respect for people in our company is to share our balance sheet with them so they know how the company is doing. We even brought in someone from Colorado to teach people how to read a balance sheet! We share this because we want everyone to always know where we stand as an organization. We have a gain-sharing program where we share a percentage of our profits with our people. We also have a “give back” program where we take a percentage of our profit and give it to our employees so they can each give money to a charity that is important to them. We want them involved—we show them respect and they trust us in return.  I think it’s so powerful and so necessary to understand how those two things go together. If you don’t treat people with respect, they won’t trust you. Trust and respect go together.

5 thoughts on “How can we build trust within our organization?

  1. Thanks for your article.
    I think we can build trust within our organization by giving employees the final assessment at beginning (Helping people win at work,K.Blanchard&Garry .Ridge).It depends on every managers’point of view .If they look their company members as their family members they can comeover all problems ultimately, because they feel they belong to it and this feeling helps in all steps.

  2. Ken – The connection between trust and respect was a good one. I also think part of respect is caring who the person is before asking them to do anything. I encourage leaders as soon as possible to share some personal information with their people and to learn the same information: family members, what they like to do outside of work, rewards that matter to them, etc.

    Great post. It got me thinking.

    • With this duality of both facing and turning your back, a leader needs to be clear about her or his intention. A leader could be giving someone space, thinking they are showing that person trust and respect, but the other person may perceive the opposite. Don’t assume that the people you work with know that you trust them.

  3. I certainly agree that trust and respect work together. We can engender trust in employees, when they are included in the decision-making process that impacts their lives. We can also engender trust when employees are allowed to use their initiative, make suggestions, and be allowed to learn from their own mistakes and the mistakes from others. Trust is easily broken and needs a lot of work to rebuild. As managers we need to be very careful as rebuilding trust never happens for some persons. Finally, the socialization process experienced by a child – at home or within the community can determine trust or lack of trust that could be later displayed at the workplace.

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