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Rebuilding trust to promote good faith within organizations: Be more human

It is harder to build trust in diverse cultures. Over the past decade, we have understood that our social skills…

By Shobha Singh , in Blog Leadership , at July 7, 2021

It is harder to build trust in diverse cultures. Over the past decade, we have understood that our social skills are inadequate to the sort of multifaceted society we are living in. Thus, declining interpersonal trust has developed.

Distrust is a tumor eating away in our society. It amplifies hatred, suffocates cooperation, and fuels conspiracy thinking. So, the question is, how do you build trust?

Within organizations, trust is generally built by leaders who create environments that inspire people to behave with integrity, competence, and generosity.

That’s not just a matter of character, but of having the right practical skills — knowing what to do in difficult situations to make people feel respected and safe.

Here are some practices leaders have used in their companies to build trust:

Assume brilliance: the more you monitor your employee’s behavior, the more distrustful they will become. Leaders who trust their employees may tell them what to do, but they let them manage their responsibilities in their way.

In the 1980s, Hewlett-Packard allowed engineers to take equipment, a home without a lot of formal paperwork. Because they had the confidence that the supplies would be returned.

Be more human: People over 45 were raised to separate their personal lives from professionals. This difference is less recognized by younger generations. Who wants to bring their whole selves to work? Sharing personal matters with colleagues can establish new levels of emotional rapport. Even negotiations who spend time chatting about non-work stuff before a have reported feeling more cooperative and willing to share more information.

No back-channel disapprovals: Many organizations have become snake pits of distrust because leaders have permitted some in the community to convict others online, without ever sitting in a room and talking it out. Once this behavior becomes suitable, the toughest people in the organization take over, and everyone else cowers.

Discourage groups: A team that has divided into different subgroups is bound to become a team in which distrust booms. Blend people up so they don’t divide into groups.

Acknowledge errors: Screw-ups are, paradoxically, opportunities to build trust, so long as you admit error and are clear about what you’ve learned and what you’re doing to change things.

Ask people, don’t assume: As one research by the University of Texas at Arlington, US, has shown, we’re not always very good at understanding what’s going on in other people’s minds. People who feel invisible and misheard will not trust you. The only solution is to regularly ask people what they are thinking and what problems they are facing. Often, we send social signals that are too delicate to be received. Be explicit.

The power to Giveaway power: In periods when distrust is high, hierarchies of power are generally suspect. Leaders earn trust by spreading authority through the ranks. In his book The Power of Giving Away Power, Matthew Barzun contrasts pyramid hierarchical structures with constellation structures. In which power is dispersed. The former encourages a competitive win-lose mindset, he writes, while constellation structures encourage cooperation.

Don’t overvalue transparency: There is a common perception that people will trust you if you make your organization’s operations more visible to strangers. This is mostly false.

Maximum possible openness: Screw-ups are, illogically, opportunities to build trust, so long as you confess error and are clear about what you’ve learned and what you’re doing to change. Wealthy times can challenge trust if leaders groom and self-promoter. This type of behavior looks selfish — and thus trust-destroying.

Acknowledge social ignorance: The fact is, as research by William Ickes at the University of Texas at Arlington has shown, we’re not always so good at empathetic what’s going on in other people’s minds. People who feel mis-seen and misheard will not trust you. The only solution is to regularly ask people.

Reply distrust with trust: People who have learned to be distrusting will struggle with your friends because they assume you will ultimately betray them. If you keep showing up for them after they have rejected you, it will finally change their lives.

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