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Building Trust in an Organization

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We can all easily agree that trust is a good thing in a relationship or an organization when it exists. We can also see that when “distrust” exists or lack of “trust” is present a relationship or an organization is much less efficient.

We value trust in our closest friends and that is one of the things that makes them our closest friend.

One problem can be that trust may exist within units, teams,levels or specific locations within an organization but there may not be trust laterally, vertically or between levels within the organization. For example, the floor workers on the factory floor may be a cohesive team that trusts other members of the floor, but they may not trust upper or central management. Different geographic units of an organization may have an unhealthy attitude about a distant division.

How do you build trust in an organization? Trust is not simple, automatic or instant. “Trust” like all worthy goals is obtained by making it a priority, understanding the goal and going after it with some serious passion.

If an organization has “trust” in all relationships and at all levels in the organization the lives of all members of the organization will go smoother as will the functioning of the organization.

Contents

[edit] Best Practices for Building Organizational Trust

  1. Keep your word and always follow through on promises and commitments. Your word represents your integrity and your ethics in doing what you say you will do. Failing to follow through on a commitment may have devastating consequences for others who depend on you. Rebuilding trust after such an omission is a difficult if not impossible task.
  2. Share information widely. Be open about all issues that do not require confidentiality. Information is power and one who withholds information may be suspected of hidden agendas personal competition or turf-building. By sharing information you will also gain information from others and build the basis for a trusting relationship.
  3. Keep confidences about sensitive matters. Confidential or personal information must be held in strictest confidence in order not to damage another s reputation or career. Sharing confidences even with a single person may be seen as self-serving or denigrating to others and will raise the question: Could I trust this person to hold my confidences
  4. Demonstrate your belief in what you say by behaving consistently with your message. In other words do as you say. The consistency and integrity of your own behavior allows others to know what to expect from you. If others are not surprised by actions that seem contrary to your words trust in who you are and the beliefs you represent will build.
  5. Go beyond what is expected by performing above the norm. Achieving excellent results from all your efforts will build trust in your work and confidence that you will come through all situations to the best of your ability.
  6. Meet deadlines. Another s deadline may be more important to him or her than to you but by helping another meet that requirement you build a trusting relationship that assures the other will help you when you have a need.
  7. Share who you are as a person. Show your vulnerability and humanness. State when you do not have all the information you need or know the answer to a question. Describe your values your ethics and your priorities. Your personal statements speak volumes about your honesty and suggest that you do not hide behind a professional facade.
  8. Demonstrate your belief in what you say by behaving consistently with your message. In other words do as you say. The consistency and integrity of your own behavior allows others to know what to expect from you. If others are not surprised by actions that seem contrary to your words trust in who you are and the beliefs you represent will build.
  9. Go beyond what is expected by performing above the norm. Achieving excellent results from all your efforts will build trust in your work and confidence that you will come through all situations to the best of your ability.
  10. Meet deadlines. Another s deadline may be more important to him or her than to you but by helping another meet that requirement you build a trusting relationship that assures the other will help you when you have a need.
  11. Share who you are as a person. Show your vulnerability and humanness. State when you do not have all the information you need or know the answer to a question. Describe your values your ethics and your priorities. Your personal statements speak volumes about your honesty and suggest that you do not hide behind a professional facade.
  12. Give and receive honest feedback often. Maintain a learning relationship with others so that trust continues to grow as you improve your interpersonal relationships with others.
  13. Stay in tune with the informal communication within the organization. By acknowledging and using informal communication networks through opinion leaders you can achieve congruence between the formal and informal communiqu s within the organization relieving suspicions about motives and actions.
  14. Tell the truth. Always be honest and open or explain why you cannot tell everything. The information explosion guarantees that the truth will eventually be revealed. Your telling less than the whole story without explanation undermines your foundation of trust.
  15. Admit your mistakes and apologize for them. Others see your behaviors whether you want them to or not. Therefore publicly admitting mistakes and apologizing makes you more human shows your vulnerability allows you to tell the truth and builds trust.
  16. Acknowledge others pain when things go wrong. Organizational and individual actions inevitably cause pain at one time or another. Acknowledging others pain whether you caused it or not is a key to building trusting relationships that will be even stronger when things go well.
  17. Be fair in your exercise of authority. Fairness does not mean making everyone happy. However demonstration of well-thought-out and fair decisions allows for trust in the process even when leadership decisions are difficult for others to accept.
  18. Be consistent in your behavior with others. Acknowledge both individual circumstances and consistency in your treatment of others. Do not play favorites. If your behavior may look inconsistent explain your rationale.
  19. Demonstrate your personal values and your belief in organizational values. Be explicit in your explanations about what is important to you and how it helps you to meet the organizational mission and ethic. This is a powerful motivator and trust-builder.
  20. Communicate from the heart as much as from the head. Compassion and empathy have a place in organizational life. Demonstrating your heartfelt feelings sorrows joys disappointments or celebrations shows your personality allows others to know you better and allows their trust in you to grow.
  21. Respond to others good ideas and requests for help. Being available to others recognizing their contributions and helping them when they need you means that they will be more available to you sharing credit providing assistance and creating a mutual trust to move your efforts forward.

[edit] Related Best Practices

[edit] Other Resources

  • Dirks, Kurt T. (December 2000), Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 85(6), pp. 1004-1012.
  • Jones, Del (2001), Gannett News Service.
  • Meyer, R.C., Davis, J. H., and Schoorman, F. S. (1995), Academy of Management Review, 20(3).
  • Tway, Duane C. (1993), "A Construct of Trust", Dissertation, 1993.
  • Tway, Duane C. (1995), Unpublished Paper, "Leadership and Trust: An Imperative for the Transition Decade and Beyond".
  • Peter de Jager provides an excellent discussion on what trust is, how to attain and lose it; its application to organization managers.

[edit] Author

The author of this article is Terry Gardiner.

Terry Gardiner is the founder and President of Silver Lining Seafoods and NorQuest Seafoods - a medium size Alaska seafood processing companies; and currently Board member of the Anvil Corporation, an employee owned company specializing in oil and gas engineering.

His co-operative experiences include member director of the Commercial Fishermen Co-operative association; creation of legislation for the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank; and advisor to the US Dept of Health and Social Services for the state Health CO-OPs.

Terry served ten years as a member of the Alaska House of Representatives -several legislative committee chairmanships, Speaker of the House, Chairman of the Alaska Criminal Code Commission and board member on various state and federal boards and commissions.

His non-profit experiences include National Policy Director for the Small Business Majority in Washington DC; working with the Herndon Alliance and ForTerra.

Terry authored the leadership book, "Six-Word Lessons to Build Effective Leaders: 100 Lessons to Equip Your People to Create Winning Organizations".



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