Trust Wasn’t Built in a Day

By Cindy Vallance

I wrote recently about different types of trust: individual approaches to thinking and feeling as well as broader organisational trust. Today I am going to focus on how we can build the trust that people have in us.

It all starts with some honest self reflection.

Let’s begin with the individual level. Trust increases or decreases depending on the behaviours that we demonstrate. Ask yourself: Am I CONSISTENT between my ‘talk’ and ‘walk?’ Do I keep my promises and tell the TRUTH? Do I demonstrate this consistency over time and across situations by MEETING DEADLINES and FOLLOWING THROUGH on planned activities and promises? If so, these behaviours will help others to see that they can predictably rely on us to deliver on what we have committed to.

Trust can be developed through DELEGATION OF CONTROL as well. How can we do this? Ask: Do I ensure staff are provided with a voice and participate in decision-making by encouraging opportunities that allow them to influence areas where they have knowledge and interest?

DEMONSTRATING GENUINE CONCERN is another way to build trust. Again, some questions we can ask ourselves: Do I show consideration and sensitivity for others’ needs and interests? Do I refrain from exploiting others for my own agenda?

COMMUNICATION also builds trust. Once again,  ask: Do I provide accurate information, explanations for decisions, and take an open rather than a ‘need to know’ approach? Do I work with my team to develop a collective identity, shared goals and a commitment to commonly shared values?

When it comes to organisational trust, much depends on the perceptions people in the organisation have of JUSTICE and FAIRNESS. A balance must also be struck between CENTRALISATION and FORMALISATION of systems and processes with more general GUIDELINES that provide opportunities to make mistakes and learn. Having rules for every conceivable situation can never be successful – no policy guidebook that attempted this would ever be complete.

Organisational trust also means promoting a safe environment for RISK-TAKING with a tolerance for a certain amount of inevitable failure, as well as a sense of INCLUSIVENESS and VALUING PEOPLE.

Sadly, it can sometimes all go horribly wrong. Why? What happens when trust erodes or is even broken? And what can we do to fix it? More on that next time.


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