Trust: An economic driver, not a social virtue
By Sue Blaney
I recently worked with a management team that was going through a difficult time. Due to the company’s response to major market changes and a sweeping reorganization, people were feeling unsure of where they stood. Everyone on the team – including the CEO – was feeling uncomfortable. And there was very little trust amongst them. There was major work to be done.
If you think trust is on the soft side of workplace behaviors, think again. Trust is an economic driver, not a social virtue.
Stephen M. R. Covey (the son of the famous Stephen R. Covey, 7 Habits author) shares a valuable formula in The Speed of Trust. He says trust impacts two outcomes: cost and speed. Where there is high trust, speed goes up and costs go down. Where there is low trust, costs go up and speed goes down.
Test this out yourself; think of someone with whom you have a trusting relationship at work. How well do you communicate? How fast do you get things done? What kind of results do you have? Now think about someone with whom you don’t have much trust and ask yourself those same questions. Undoubtedly you will get very different answers.
Low trust organizations have very different cultures than high trust organizations. In low trust organizations people withhold information, manipulate or distort facts, badmouth one another, gossip and chat inappropriately and have low engagement. Compare this to the culture in high trust organizations and you see a world of difference. And it shows in the bottom line: Total return to shareholders for organizations with high trust is almost 3x higher than that of organizations with low trust.*
In our world at The Predictive Index, we see how and where one’s natural behavioral style can impact trust. Consider the high-detail type of individual who answers the question “How’s your project going?” with a long and thorough report on the current status of a project. Contrast this with a person who is at least as competent but who sees the world in broad strokes and answers the same question with an accurate “Fine!” If the manager asking the question wants a detailed report, and is being answered with one word by someone not detailed, what might that do to their trust and relationship? The manager might feel that the job is not being done well or thoroughly and might get an erroneous impression because she/he actually was looking for more detail, but didn’t make that clear. Different behavioral styles yield different ways of communicating, and one needs to be aware that this can have a significant impact on trust.
Covey suggests that trust can be boiled down to two essential components: character and competence. And I see trust in the workplace is hugely impacted by communication style. When one understands another’s outlook, communication style and behavioral attributes, many of the misunderstandings that develop into lack of trust can be thwarted from the start.
The management team I worked with that I mentioned above did a terrific job of honestly discussing individual and team dynamics in a facilitated discussion that yielded significant breakthroughs. This was the start of a new atmosphere, and new trust amongst the team members that they can take to the bank.