How trust leads to better performance

But in our joint experience, we’ve learned that trust is the one thing that changes everything. It’s not a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. Without it, every part of your organization can fall, literally, into disrepair. With trust, all things are possible – most importantly: continuous improvement and sustainable, measurable, tangible results in the marketplace.

The dictionary definition of trust is as follows - "to believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you, or that something is safe and reliable".

Read the definition out loud. It's a simple enough definition but broken down it helps us understand why trust needs to exist in the workplace. As human beings we fear harm; our brain constantly tells us to seek out things that are safe and reliable - it is our survival instinct at its most basic level. At the same time we will constantly scan for signs of threat or harm so that we can respond to danger appropriately - typically by fight, flight or freeze. This way of functioning, whilst incredibly useful in the days of being chased by a Sabre-toothed tiger, is less helpful when we apply it to the workplace. Of course our survival instinct still has an important role to play in the world we live in today, but put into the workplace context fight, flight or freeze suddenly looks more like snap, skulk or sulk! This type of response typically leads to negative emotions and behaviours which in turn makes it highly unlikely that we will be in a good place to perform at our very best - our brains are just too busy processing the 'threat'.

Bringing this back to the notion of trust in the workplace, if employees do not trust the business leaders and the people around them they will not feel safe. If they do not feel safe, their brains will be on high alert, they will be primed for a 'snap, skulk or sulk' response and productivity will likely go out of the window (along with engagement and morale). It can become a vicious cycle if left unchecked.

Business leaders and managers have a big responsibility to build trusting relationships with the people they look after. It is imperative to make employees feel safe, that there is no threat of harm. There is no rule book as to how this can be achieved but at its simplest it begins with taking an interest in the people around you. It is about engaging with people at a human level; to understand what motivates them; to understand what makes them happy; to learn what they are good at or not so good at. Investing in that person will help to build and sustain a good and honest relationship with them. This has to be done over time and there is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach. Creating good relationships with the people around you at work is an investment, but one that is absolutely worth it. If people feel safe, if trust exists, it will empower them to give their very best and do their very best.

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