The great trust gap

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2013 has been a terrible year for organisational trust.

The Jimmy Savile inquiry highlighted a worrying lack of accountability within the BBC and even the police. Edward Snowden’s data-privacy whistleblowing suggested the governments not only don’t trust us, but we shouldn’t trust them. And the new Governor designate of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, declared that trust “screeched out of the parking lot” in 2008 and banks need to undergo deep cultural change to restore public confidence.

Frankly, these scandals of mistrust come as no surprise to most of us, whether you’re the waitress in a bakery or the CEO of a bank. The CIPD’s quarterly report found that only 36% of employees trust senior leaders and 58% had adopted a ‘not bothered’ attitude for work. The symptoms of mistrust – hostile gossip, fruitless meetings and incompetent leaders – are daily realities for many in the workplace.

Yet high trust is a key characteristic of profitable and sustainable businesses. Trust not only provokes customers to buy, it encourages employees to stay loyal and turns process-clogged organisations into lean, mean collaborative machines.

It’s time we spoke up about the lack of trust in our organisations and took responsibility for change. Here are the three steps we take at Blue Sky when turning rhetoric into reality.

1.    Take the trust blinkers off

Start noticing the unquestioned low trust behaviours that happen within your business every day. Examples to look out for include leaders talking the talk but not demonstrating the competence or the character to live up to their senior role; widespread grumbling behind the backs of colleagues; a reluctance to make decisions; not owning up to mistakes and making self-serving decisions.

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2.    Break trust down into its elements

Steven M.R Covey brilliant book The Speed of Trust emphasises that trust is a behaviour rather than a trait. By breaking trust into 13 characteristics, including talking straight, righting wrongs, confronting reality, clarifying expectations and practicing accountability, he demonstrates that trust is under our control, and that it can be rebuilt, step by step – if we can find a way to commit to it.

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3.    Get buy-in from within

Finally, trust has to become a priority truly embraced and evangelised by people at all levels of an organisation to ensure cultural change. Naming the behaviours you identified in step one, and citing the evidence that show the impact of trust on the bottom line (for example, people are 87% less likely to leave an organisation with high trust) will help win over cynics. With senior leaders as your champions, you then need to ensure that trust coaching spreads through the ranks. As role models begin to emerge, the groundswell of trust will begin to grow.

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You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn page and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementElke Edwards

I am Director of Learning at Blue Sky, so am firmly placed to share with you our approach to performance improvement at every level from your contact centre staff to your CEO. I know that for businesses to achieve major success, their people need to work towards organisational objectives, not individual or departmental ones. I love the work I personally deliver for senior teams that are positioned to support this behaviour from the top down.

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