Having the trust of those you work with is too important not to be intentional about building and maintaining it – CHARLES FELTMAN
At the start of the summer I read a great little book called The thin book of trust, by Charles Feltman. It’s a book that Brene Brown references in Dare to lead. It’s definitely worth purchasing whether you lead a team, or whether you’re a practitioner who helps leaders in the workplace.
Charles suggests that trust is built through a combination of four ingredients:
Delving a bit deeper into trust, let’s look at what research tells us about trust in the workplace and how you can use this to help you develop as a leader:
- A high trust environment means people are more likely to share knowledge and information, thereby breaking down silos that can occur between teams. For example, in a survey of over 1,100 people across Norway, researchers found that a mastery climate (where success and failure are based around co-operation, helping, learning and effort) was a direct predictor of the collective team feeling trusted by the manager and hence, being prepared to share information and knowledge more readily.
- You might think a competitive industry is one of low trust but surprisingly, a 2018 study published in Science Advances found working in a competitive industry can foster a greater level of trust among co-workers. The researchers suggest that more intense competition in an industry leads to more pro-social behavior, like sharing, co-operation, and volunteering.
- If you’re a female leader and you’ve built trust through your interpersonal skills, then you could have laid the foundations to weather any storms that may come your way. A recent study from Queen’s University, Belfast found that trust established by female leaders practicing strong interpersonal skills results in better crisis resolution in cases when outcomes are predictable. Strong relationship-building skills may help female leaders gain a trust advantage in crises that focus primarily on relationship aspects in an organization, particularly when there is certainty around the resolution and fallout from the crisis is more controllable.
- In a review of 125 studies, researchers found trust in teams is fed at three levels. At the individual level, trust comes from people having trusting natures and taking the time to build relationships. At a team level, good relationships between co-workers and with the team leader, as well as tasks where people needed to work together helped build trust and a climate where people could give open and honest feedback safely. At an organisational level, they found that fair HR policies, along with an ethical culture and strong sense of corporate social responsibility all helped build trust. Higher levels of trust tended to lead to better levels of performance, and higher job satisfaction.
- A study in the Leadership & Organizational Development Journal suggests adopting a servant leadership style can help build trust. In a study involving nearly 600 employees and 48 supervisors across 26 organisations in India, the researchers found that the behaviour of servant leaders inspires an environment of mutual trust in which team members reciprocate by exhibiting creative behaviour. This is reiterated in a 2019 study from the University of Exeter which found managers who are so-called ‘servant leaders’ create a positive culture of trust and fairness in the workplace. In turn, they benefit through creating loyal and positive teams. This type of manager has personal integrity and is also keen to encourage staff development. The new research also showed clear evidence of a link between this style of leadership and an increase in productivity.
- A 2017 study in Industrial Management and Data Systems developed a leadership model based on six constructs – leading organization, leading people, leading self, trust, knowledge management and organizational performance. The researchers found that effective leadership of self, others and the organisation is a foundation for greater levels of trust. Increased trust, as a result of effective leadership, contributes to the successful implementation of knowledge management practices. Successful knowledge management practices, as a result of increased trust stemming from effective leadership, significantly and positively contributes to better organisational performance. Check out this post on the things you can do to be a more effective leader.
- A 2019 study by Kimberley Breevaart and Hannes Zacher found that transformational leadership had a positive effect on followers’ trust in the leader that same week and the week after. Trust in the leader, in turn, positively related to follower perceived leader effectiveness that same week, but not the week after. The researchers suggest that leaders should inspire, support and intellectually challenge their followers on a weekly basis, because these transformational leadership behaviours enhances followers’ trust in the leader.
- A study by Oriel Feldman Hall and Marc-Lluis Vives found that people who are tolerant of ambiguity—a kind of uncertainty in which the odds of an outcome are unknown—are more likely to cooperate with and trust other people. This has obvious implications during organisational change and may help explain why some people get on board more quickly than others.
- A 2005 study by Maria Vakola and Dimitris Bouradas found that managers who are used to, and more tolerant of, silence create more trust and have more positive effect on members of staff, leading to greater input into decision making and a positive employee attitude.
- In a 2019 study involving 116 supervisor-employee dyads from a large petrochemical company in South Korea, researchers found that leaders report a greater level of trust in employees with a more proactive personality. Leaders were more likely to empower employees in whom they like more and believe to be more competent. The researchers suggest that organisational cultures that value open communication, positive interpersonal relationships, and showing care and concern for others’ well-being are more likely to create the conditions for trust to flourish between leaders and staff.
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If you liked this post, you might also like these:
- How to build trust at work
- “Trust is built at the speed of a snail and lost at the speed of a racehorse” (this is an article I wrote for LinkedIn)