Trust: The New Workplace Currency

How to get it and why it matters.

7 New Realities About Trust Every Supervisor Should Know

Workplace trust doesn't need to start at the top

There are many last century myths and misconceptions about trust, at least the kind we need to  have as supervisors and managers. Some think trust must always start from the top. We hear much about the importance of trust building, often extrapolated to sound like trust is inherently good, like motherhood or apple pie. But, the reality is, it isn't. It's how, when, why, and to whom it's given that determines trust's positive or negative impact.

Authentic trust, often referred to as relationship trust, the kind you need to give, nurture, and grow as a supervisor to get great results is open-eyes trust. It has conditions, boundaries, and limits certainly, but it also has new realities that impact whether or not you can enable the power of trust to create your own work-group culture that sparks passion, engagement, and innovation.

How to effectively give and build trust is a developed skill. With that in mind, here are 7 trust realities every supervisor needs to know:

1. Trust doesn't need to start from the top. In fact, the trust needed to be effective as a supervisor is a local issue. Even if you work in an organization with a culture of distrust, you can create your own trust-pocket. No one needs permission to create a trust-culture in his or her work group. People work for people. For the people who work for you, it's what you do that matters most to them.

2. Trust doesn't come with a title or role. While a title may give you decision authority, it won't enable trust. The ability to legislate or command top down initiatives is not what it was pre-Great Recession. Today, it's that trust creates influence and authority, not position. Natural followership is what you need today as a supervisor, and that requires trust-building skills and behaviors.

3. Staff engagement won't happen without trust. Where trust is lacking you'll find disengagement. Since the opposite of trust is control, where you see a lack of authentic trust, you'll find controlling people. You'll also find disengaged staffs. Disengagement is a symptom of distrust. When trust is lacking disengagement results. That doesn't mean trust causes engagement. Rather, it's an essential component that enables it. If you want engagement, you need trust.

4. A paycheck won't buy the results you seek. Trust is the new workplace currency. What you  need to succeed as a supervisor can't be bought. You need engaged strong performers with ideas,  know-how, solutions, innovation, enthusiasm, and initiative. To be given those golden eggs from your staff requires a different kind of currency: trust. Knowing how to build that trust currency is an essential skill for anyone who leads.

5. Trust isn't about “them” or an HR or C-level problem. Trust-building starts with you. Most  supervisors focus on whether or not they can trust others. But, you should focus on the more important part of trust building-being worthy of someone else's trust. The first question for every supervisor should be: will my staff give me their trust? Will others choose to be in a trusting relationship with me? People don't give their best efforts to people they don't trust.

6. It's not enough to walk-the-talk. Most supervisors have already figured out they need to talk the talk and walk the walk at work. But, in the new workplace where trust is the currency that gets results, the challenge is to walk your talk while still supporting the company. Today, the self-alignment bar is higher, with different standards. If you want to build authentic trust you must move from acting to being.

7. In this era of distrust, what it takes to build trust is different from what it was even five years ago. The skills needed include these essential behaviors:

  • Go first with trust: To be a trusted boss, you must give trust first and know how to spark,build, and nurture trust in your own work-group.
  • Elevate communication: Get above the noise with these basics: know what matters to those around you; be about dialogue; express gratitude.
  • Demonstrate behavioral integrity: Words determine how actions are measured; word-action alignment is key and everything you do (or don't do) matters to those who report to you.
  • Show up authentically: to do this requires connecting with and operating from the best of who you are at a core level.
  • Build genuine relationships: The kind where the relationship matters more than any single outcome; these relationships are founded on authentic trust and are mutually beneficial.

Of course, knowing essential trust building realities and behaviors and being able to operate with  them in the craziness of work are different. Here are more trust building tips to help:

You'll find specific how-tos for trust building in my latest book: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation 

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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