How to build a culture of trust
Thursday, September 05, 2019
Toxic employees can infect other staff and bring down morale. The negative cultures they create can bring down the organization.
But short of firing everyone and starting again, how do you build a team that trusts each other? Here are three steps to repairing the damage and building a culture of trust.
Who are you?
The first step starts with identifying the value of trust with the organization. Each organization may be different.
For example, financial services organizations have an essential need for trust as part of their operating model. High-stress, fast-paced work environments require trust to support the intensity and pace of operations.
Second, the reason for the emphasis on trust needs to be clearly spelled out and articulated to employees. This should include examples of what it looks like (and does not look like). It should also include visible steps from management to support and emphasize it.
For example, if gossip is currently undermining teamwork, then calling it out with examples like, do not start sentences with he/she/they is a great start. Following up with ways to constructively address issues, like asking staff to bring solutions to problems or facilitating meetings to directly address issues between team members, can clearly illustrate and support building a foundation of trust.
Perfect vs. Good
In his TED Talk, Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb, talks about the pivotal role of trust within their business model. By creating a platform that facilitates strangers sharing homes and vacations, trust was essential to success. A critical part of ensuring they got it right was ensuring they were open to change.
By clearly articulating and emphasizing the importance of trust to the success of the business, every decision had to incorporate the concept.
Failures in the ability to trust had to be immediately and creatively addressed; from what information to share and how much to posting reviews simultaneously instead of as provided, all aspects of the business were considered through a lens of trust.
Similarly, Gebbia distilled the idea of the Airbnb down to one phrase that can be useful to any business trying to rebuild or strengthen trust: “commerce with the promise of human connection.” In other words, all our businesses are about making money; the thing that elevates (or repairs) the culture is the connections among employees.
Thus, the third step in building a culture of trust is focusing on the human connection. As leaders, we can robotically spew out adages and mimic best practices.
However, the way to genuinely and positively impact the culture is to take the time to understand the humans that work for us and how they interact with each other within the work environment we create.
In other words: do our creatives need alternative hours to harness their muses? Do our engineers need headphones and lots of snacks? Does the marketing team understand that happy hour on Tuesday interferes with the accountants trying to finish month-end?
By looking at what trust can and should mean to our organization, understanding how to articulate and convey it, and then buckling down to specifically address the unique needs and interactions among our teams, we can begin to repair and strengthen trust within our culture.
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