Trust in your organization

Trust is the ability to have confidence or faith in a person or process. During this crisis the trust level between you as an employer and your staff broke down. This affected productivity, morale and created a tangent where staffs were keeping their heads down or they were on the phone calling for other jobs. That was a tremendous waste of time, efficiency and creativity.

An article in the Harvard Business Review stated the following: Surveys have shown that 80% of Americans don’t trust corporate executives and–worse–that roughly half of all managers don’t trust their own leaders. Mergers, downsizing, and globalization have accelerated the pace of change in organizations, creating a crisis of trust that didn’t exist a generation ago.

Given all this uncertainty, trust has been at an all-time low.

When it comes to analyzing and facilitating trust, Brain Science is fascinating. In order to make Brain science interesting and easy to understand, we have to make the following statements:

1) The brain controls our actions,
2) We all have a brain,
3) As a leader you are not only managing people but you are also managing their brain. I know it’s an unorthodox way of looking at this but it’s extremely relevant and logical.

So far, so good. Problems start when you factor in how trust has broken down in your organization. Trust is broken down by fear (ex. losing one’s job, making mistakes, damaging or losing assets). Fear is that always-on emotion that is controlled by your amygdala. Your amygdala (a pair of small organs in the brain) is the fear and emotion center in your brain. It’s the area that prepares you eventually for ‘fight or flight’.

In its most simple terms if the amygdala is activated or overheating because of fear, this will also affect other parts of your brain such as the reward system, your gut feeling and another area called the ‘Accountant’ which essentially tells the ‘action brain’ either Go or No Go or in other words, to carry on a particular task.

According to a Brain Science leading authority Dr. Srini Pillay:
“Trust and fear are inversely related and affect the brain in opposite ways. Fear increases amygdala activation while trust decreases it. Developing a trusting work environment is important in similar ways to creating a non-fear based motivational space. It frees up the thinking brain to focus on relevant issues rather than using up thinking resources to resolve trust conflicts. Trust is also rewarding since it affects several components of the reward system. These components feed back to the action centers in the brain, preparing the brain to act. Without trust, action is inhibited or infused with fear; this compromises actions.”

So now we know that Trust frees up thinking resources in the brain by decreasing amygdala activation.

Armed with this scientific yet logical insight through your leadership style, you can address trust. By instilling trust in your organization you will notice a difference in staff performance and morale. It won’t happen overnight but it can become contagious if you follow some basic steps:

1) Be honest and sincere. Why? It only makes sense. People will feel that you are hiding things and will respect you as leader if you communicate without hesitation. By being direct, employees will stop the rumor mill and concentrate on the task at hand. Remember that for any news – good or bad, You need to communicate it! One of my CEO clients delegated the delivery of bad news to the HR Director. It bombed and created more fear! Staff needs to hear it from you.

2) Be appreciative. If you have fallen in the trap of not thanking people then you better change your approach. I don’t care what cultural background you are from. In the ten countries I have worked in, saying Thank You goes a long way. I challenge you: If you speak to one of your line staff and remember to say thank you, that person will go home that evening and tell his spouse or loved one that the boss thanked him/her…Imagine that!

3) Be open to feedback. Encourage feedback. Listen but remembering the most fundamental rule of encouraging feedback: You have 2 ears and one mouth…use them accordingly. Listen, acknowledge and don’t defend the idea/feedback since this is counterproductive.

4) Remain focused on the task at hand. You still need to sell, serve or create something. Employees need to be reminded of the obvious – the job has to get done. Remind them that their individual contributions matter to the organization.

5) Trial and error. It’s OK for employees to fail while trying. Implement an attitude of ‘trying without asking’. Then tell your staff member ‘if you mess up, that’s OK as long as you learn in the process’.

If you cannot empower your team members to make decisions without you, how will they ever succeed? Sometimes you need to let them try, fall flat on their faces and learn in the process. In my experience this is by far the strongest message of trust instilment you can deliver.

Trust is intangible. It can be a dark cloud or a motivator. By tapping into the brain of your team members you may discover that removing fear by instilling trust will give you an exponential effect on team morale and performance.

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