Trust is the oil that reduces friction in a relationship. It is a platform for effective understanding, communication and relationships and the key element in all relationships at work, home and in our social lives. And because we’re human, trust is key in business and politics.
The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer study found that countries with higher trust levels overall also show a greater willingness to trust new business innovations. They found that building trust is essential to successfully bringing new products and services to market, and requires that companies demonstrate clear personal and societal benefits, behave with integrity and engage with customers and stakeholders throughout the process.
While at an individual level, trust has been identified as the most desirable quality in a partner.
The problem is that trust is complex. It is hard to define, even harder to measure and therefore, there is no definitive way to build it.
Here’s what we’ve learned in our research on trust.
Firstly, there are different levels of trust:
- Predictive trust – where you know how the person is going to react or what they are going to say. This type of trust develops when people work together over time.
- Vulnerable trust –willingness of people on a team to be emotionally vulnerable and honest with each other e.g. “I need help”; “I’m not good at this”; “I’m sorry; what I said yesterday was out of line.” This is not to be confused with lack of competency or giving too much self-disclosure.
Trust can be separated into two distinct characteristics:
- Integrity: (or who I am) the ability to be honest, fair and reliable
- Capability: (or what I do) the level of competence I have in my role
In a study at Google, they found that psychological safety, or trust, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work.
“To be fully present at work, to feel ‘psychologically safe,’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labour.”
So, how do you go about building trust? In fact, there are many ways, but here are some communication tips to get you started. When giving feedback or having those hard conversations, talk straight and stay focussed on the specific behaviour or event that you want to address. For example, “I need to talk to you about completing your monthly reports. I notice that your latest report was 3 days overdue. I’m concerned about this as it has an impact on being able to analyse our business results in a timely way. Is there a reason that your monthly report is overdue?”
- don’t personalise or use labels e.g. “you’re hopeless”; “you’re so disorganised.”
- don’t generalise to all behaviour or situations e.g. “you never get things done on time.”
- don’t assume their motives e.g. “you’re just trying to be manipulative.”
And for a tip: Mirror or match a person’s body language to make them feel comfortable. If they sit back and fold their arms, speak quickly, or if their tone of voice is quiet, replicate that.
One final thought about trust: “you can tell people you are funny, or you can make them laugh. It’s like that with trust, I think.”