Trust: The New Workplace Currency

How to get it and why it matters.

10 Trust Building New Year's Resolutions for Leaders

Ways to change to a trust building focus at work

We enter the New Year with challenges facing the majority of leaders in most work places. Trust between employees and employers is at a historic low, job satisfaction remains elusive, and Gallup continues to report that more than 70 percent of employees are not engaged at work. Even with all that, getting great results is an expected norm.

If you want to engage the disengaged in your work group, decrease staff performance issues or customer complaints, it's a good time to step back and look at what you're focusing on. Too many leaders get people problems and their solutions backwards. They focus on what they want less of when they should be focusing on what positive behaviors they want to increase.

It's easy for most of us to point out what's wrong, to see what needs changing, or state what we're against. But leaders who build trust, and as a result deliver consistently strong results, focus on what behaviors they want more of, i.e. what they want to bring about.

Focusing on what you want more of, being willing to speak for or work for that, means using your voice at work. That requires a bit of courage. Courage to say no when you'd be more popular if you said yes, give difficult feedback, eliminate poor-performing staff, or work toward transforming change. Courage to acknowledge your own shortcomings or mistakes, or challenge last century thinking.

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Leaders who build trust currency in the new workplace lend their voices toward creating positive environments where people can show up and do great work. Here are 10 Trust building New Year's resolutions to help you do the same:

  1. Talk about trust, not distrust.
  2. Champion the right thing to do, not rail against mistakes or assign blame.
  3. Promote ideas, talents, and contributions of others, not take undue credit.
  4. Manage to the trustworthy vast majority doing a great job, not the small percentage who aren't.
  5. Embrace the individual, not apply stereotypes by generation, ethnicity, or gender.
  6. Keep raising the bar to excellence, not settle for mediocrity.
  7. Provide opportunities for others to excel, not ways to make them stumble.
  8. Give ideas and information away to contribute to the greater good, not competitively hoard them.
  9. Help people transition from change, not leave people stuck in the past.
  10. Operate your work group with a culture founded on authentic trust.

Most resolutions spring from good intentions but dry up before the desired results are achieved. You can increase your trust-building odds with two shifts:

  • First, focus on wants. Trust-building leaders turn their thoughts to what they want, not what they don't want. If you want trust, focus on trust, not control; focus on teamwork, not silos; accountability, not excuses; strengths, not weaknesses; results, not blame; well-being, not stress. Catch yourself talking about what you don't want and reframe it into what you want.
  • Second, give what's missing. As the Chinese proverb reminds, "Better to light a candle than curse the darkness." Are you missing unbiased thinking, openness, integrity? Give it. Are you missing compassion or genuine connection? Accountability, authenticity, or toleration? Passion or commitment? Be the person who gives what's missing, or speaks up for it, and you'll help to bring about that change.

Trust-building leaders help to show what can be. By working to bring about what's positive and helpful, they contribute to a positive work culture that builds trust, even if it's only in their local work group.

More about the trust currency you need in the new workplace and how to build it:

You'll find more trust building approaches in my new book, Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (Career Press, 2014).

Nan S. Russell is a workplace expert with real-world experience, and the author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way.

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