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Creating High-Trust Cultures: 3 Essential Steps

Building a culture of trust within your company significantly impacts productivity, engagement, loyalty, and morale. Most leaders understand the stakes – in a 2016 global CEO survey, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs believe a lack of trust threatens growth.

While the importance of a high-trust culture is clear, how to develop and measure trust can be overwhelming. Many leaders simply do not know where to start.

What Does a High-Trust Culture Look Like?

High trust does not mean lowering expectations or standards; employees are held accountable, treated like responsible adults, and not micromanaged. High trust companies give employees goals and what they need to succeed, and then they get out of their way.

Every person within the company is trusted to do what they say they will, and all are working towards a shared vision and set of goals. Everyone within the company must have a mindset of ownership and responsibility, mutual respect for their peers, and a solid belief that they can make a difference.

3 Steps to Creating High-Trust Cultures

1. Clearly define and embody company values.

Company values and beliefs need to be much more than words on a page – they need to be clearly defined, with real-life examples and success parameters. Leaders must display these values every day – bringing them to life with their words, actions, and solutions.

Everyone should clearly understand each value along with how to put it into practice. Open, clear communication of company values ensures there is no misinterpretation. If values are transformed into behaviours and actions, everyone is clear on expectations.

For example:

Company value: INTEGRITY

Integrity means being honest and upholding strong moral principles. It means doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.

Integrity in the workplace means you are:

  • Reliable, dependable, and always keep your word

  • Open and honest when communicating with coworkers, clients, and managers

  • Trustworthy (especially with confidential information)

  • Responsible and accountable for your actions

Once the values are clearly defined, every leader must exemplify the behaviours. There is no trust without follow-through.

2. Create open channels of communication.

Trust is built through open communication and it needs to go both ways. Open communication from the top-down, including transparency about the company's state, ensures employees feel connected and in the loop. A safe space with formal and casual communication channels lets employees know they have a voice.

3. Manage to results.

Managing to results is becoming increasingly important in our hybrid workplace. Traditional success metrics such as being in your seat from 9-5 are minimized as the focus shifts to deliverables.

The essential question becomes, “Are they getting their work done on time, to your expectations?”

When managing to results, you need to start with trust. Set the expectations, goals, and success parameters, and then step in only if needed. Team members know management has faith in them to get the job done, and leaders trust their people to make it happen.

Trust is built by giving freedom and space. In the words of Ernest Hemingway, “The best way to know if you can trust someone is to trust them.”

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