Friday, June 10, 2011

The Leader’s Role In Building Trust

The difficult economic situation of the last couple of years has negatively impacted levels of trust. A recent study by Maritz research found that just 11% of employees surveyed had a strong degree of trust in their organization's leaders. Even more alarming is that only 7% of the respondents said they had a strong degree of trust in their coworkers to look out for their best interests. It paints a picture of a dog-eat-dog world with everyone out to protect their own needs and desires.

This presents a huge challenge for businesses today according to Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies®. As Conley explains, "Trust is at the foundation of all relationships—whether it is interpersonal or organizationally. At the organizational level, low levels of consumer trust leads to loss of market share, decreased revenues, and a poor brand image or reputation. At the individual level, leaders face the fallout from low trust through decreased performance and increased disciplinary issues, low morale, and increased turnover and absenteeism, just to name a few."

Don't Be an Ostrich

Conley reminds leaders that trust isn't something that happens by itself. It is developed through the use of very specific behaviors.

As Conley explains, "What will not work is for leaders to use the old 'ostrich' method by sticking their head in sand and hoping that the problem will go away or improve by itself. Leaders really have to take a hard look in the mirror, step up to the plate, and recognize the immense power that they have to positively influence the situation.

"The behaviors that we use as leaders can either build trust or erode trust. At The Ken Blanchard Companies, we use the TrustWorks!® ABCD model to help leaders identify the specific behaviors that they can use to build trust in relationships."

The ABCD model identifies four components of trust.

  • A is for Ability, which is all about the leader's expertise.
  • B is for Believable, which is about the leader's character, integrity, and values.
  • C is about Connectedness, which is the care and concern leaders demonstrate toward people and their ability to build rapport with people.
  • D is about Dependability. It is about being reliable, and following through on your commitments.

One Challenge That Can Be Addressed Immediately

In working with leaders, Conley stresses that all four behaviors need to be in place for people to trust. A leader cannot be strong in two or three areas and expect that people will give them a 75% trust level. Trust is an overall concept and people either trust or don't trust a person or an organization based on what they experience in all four areas.

Still, if there was an area that Conley would consider "low hanging fruit" in most organizations, it would be in the area of Connectedness. This is the behavior that leaders often overlook that can be addressed most easily.

As Conley explains, "The Connectedness behaviors are completely under a leader's control and include things such as the amount of information they share, the frequency with which they communicate, and taking the time to recognize and reward people for their accomplishments and their efforts.

Benefits at Both the Individual and Organizational Level

For organizations that address trust issues successfully, the positive effects of high levels of trust are well documented.

At the individual level, leaders can expect to see higher levels of productivity, efficiency, creativity, and morale. When there are high levels of trust people are more engaged in what they are doing and they are more willing to invest their energy in achieving the goals of the organization rather than spending their time questioning decisions, wondering how decisions are made, and gossiping about what's going on in the rumor mill. They go beyond just doing the minimum of what is required of them to collect their paycheck.

On the organizational level, when there are high levels of trust, organizations experience increased levels of profitability, productivity, retention of talent, and higher levels of customer loyalty.

Get Started Today

For leaders looking to get started on improving the trust levels in their organizations, Conley encourages leaders to remember that trust begins on an individual basis and to recognize the responsibility and impact they can have when it comes to building trustful relationships with those that they lead.

Conley also recommends tackling trust one step at a time.

"Trust is built through the use of very specific behaviors. When you say that there is a trust issue in a relationship, or in an organization, that can seem like a big, hairy monster at first. But when you break it down into the specific behaviors that we've characterized with the ABCD model, trust becomes a much more manageable issue that can be worked on and fixed. With an assessment of trust levels through the lens of the ABCD model, leaders can rediscover the power they have to build trust with those they lead."

Thanks to The Ken Blanchard Companies

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