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Increase Your Trust Awareness with These Key Stakeholders

7 trust realities leaders need to know

"Trust in Institutions Drops to Level of Great Recession," according to the press release headline from the recently released 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer Does that statement about trust surprise you? Or does it confirm a decline you've been noticing?

Here are a few additional Edelman findings:

  • "The decline in trust in the CEO as a credible spokesperson continued for the third consecutive year."
  • "Trust issues are hindering acceptance of technological advances."
  • "Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents refuse to buy products and services from a company they do not trust."

With their global insights on several business related trust factors, the Barometer's executive summary noted: "Fundamentally, business must conduct itself with new rigor and self-awareness."

One self-awareness factor undervalued in many organizations relates to the trust level with the stakeholders known as employees. Gallup just reported that U.S. employee engagement is the highest it's been since 2000. With that increase, the reality is that less than one third of employees—just 31.5 percent are engaged. That means 68.5 percent are not.

Trust levels affect engagement levels. So while the majority of consumers may no longer buy products and services from a company they don't trust, self-aware leaders realize that the majority of top performers won't work for untrustworthy leaders or organizations with distrusting work cultures.

The irony is that these high performers are the very people most businesses need to help them change the downward trust trend in their organizations. People work for people, and trust is a local issue for most of them.

You can increase your trust awareness with these key stakeholders—employees. Here are seven realities about trust every leader should know:

1. Employees who are trusted are more likely to accept responsibility and take actions in support of organizational goals.

2. Engagement can't be bought. The way to engage staff is by creating a trust- environment where people can be self-engaged.

3. Trust is essential for employee engagement. It doesn't cause it; it enables it. If you don't have engaged employees, you don't have an engagement problem; you have a trust problem.

4. Everyday behaviors of leaders who are not consistently demonstrating word-action alignment (a.k.a. behavioral integrity) diminish trust with employees.

5. Fairness builds trust. Fairness is not about consensus, harmony, agreement, compromise or support. It's about involvement, honesty, transparency, and clarity.

6. Innovation requires a safe environment for risk taking, and that requires trust.

7. Open dialogue, enhanced ideas, collaboration, thoughtful transparency, and honest feedback happen only where trust flourishes.

Hard facts, changing times, and self-blindness make today's challenges of diminished trust a critical reality. Trust has become the new workplace currency. Yet, after more than a decade of historic low workplace trust levels, the question can no longer be just about the why. Those answers are self-evident with greater self-awareness and reflection. Instead, the business imperative requires a bigger question: How long will you wait before you do something about trust?

More tips for building trust at work:

10 Ways Any Leader Can Build Trust in the New Year

Avoid These Trust Diminishing Potholes at Work

Transparency Isn't a Magic Trust Builder

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


About the Author

Nan S. Russell is a former corporate executive and the author of four books, including, Trust, Inc. and The Titleless Leader.