CEO Magazine: Why trust is an essential leadership skill

In her recent article featured in CEO Magazine, Michelle explores why leaders should build a corporate culture of trust.

There’s no doubt that workplaces are complex environments – bringing together a melting pot of people with varying ideas, assumptions, experiences, expectations and ambitions.

If you want an engaged and productive workplace where ideas are constructively challenged and people are encouraged to deliver beyond the norm then building trusting relationships is foundational.

If people don’t trust you they are less likely to want to work with you, promote you or work for you.

As Hilary Hinton ‘Zig’ Ziglar, an American author and expert in sales, said: “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you”.

Building a corporate culture of trust:

Accelerates your progress

Our brain very quickly assesses whether it sees someone as friend or foe. It sizes someone up and makes a judgement as to whether a person is ‘in my tribe’ or ‘outside my tribe’. Those assessments are based on whether we trust someone or not.

The brain then processes the information we receive from that person according to how we have categorised them. What this means in practice is that if two people are saying the same thing to us, and one person is considered trustworthy and the other isn’t we will interpret what they are saying differently.

It’s like the giving someone the benefit of the doubt. We do that when we trust the person, and consequently, trust their intent.

When you are seen as untrustworthy, people are more likely to misinterpret the intent of your actions, leading to disagreement and unproductive behaviour, which makes it harder for you to get buy-in for your ideas, perform effectively and make progress.

Saves time

One of the biggest complaints in organisations is the amount of time leaders spend in meetings.

If you trusted your colleagues to represent your ideas and views would you really need to be there? Likewise, if they trusted you more would you need to spend so much time in meetings?

When you don’t trust your colleagues (and they don’t trust you) you are more likely to think you need to be involved in everything – all the meetings – to ensure your perspective and views are considered or carried forward.

However, if you trusted that your colleagues would appropriately debate and discuss the ideas and come to a satisfactory decision then there would be more meetings that could be delegated to others to attend, or meetings that didn’t need to happen.

If you want to spend less time in meetings it starts with looking at how you build trust with your colleagues and, as part of that, being clear on how decisions are made. This involves giving equal weight to the ‘task’ that needs to be completed, and devoting time to building the trust that’s necessary to underpin that task being done efficiently and effectively.

Enhances decision-making

When people trust you, they are also more willing to tell you what they are thinking, and to helpfully challenge you. In doing this, they ultimately help you see things from different perspectives and to explore new ideas.

This creates a more affiliative and collaborative environment in which ideas are debated, agreed on and progressed, in turn, leading to better decision-making.