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What Does Trust "Look Like" at Work?

A leader's quiz about trust.

BingImage-free to use and share
Source: BingImage-free to use and share

Depending on which poll, which month, which late-breaking news event, or which questions are asked, different predictions emerge about which presidential candidate is perceived to be "more or less trusted," or more worthy of our trust or at least our vote. Fortunately, most workplaces don't operate with the trust swings or trust diminishing antics associated with high-stakes politics.

But, trust as a means to winning at working is just as important. People at work don't vote with ballots; they vote with their everyday actions.

What it takes to build trust currency at work today is different from what it took just a few years ago. Today the amount of trust currency you have as a leader enables you to get the results you need. Innovation and engagement require it. You can't suction ideas from heads or mandate collaboration, but those who operate with trust currency foster a culture for innovation, reciprocity, discretionary effort, and mutual support.

You can see trust in action. It comes in the form of great results, enhanced communication, and the kind of engagement that matters. Engaged people do great work and are invested in their own superior performance. Who wouldn't want that as a leader?

Here's a quick quiz to give you a glimpse of how much trust currency you have in your immediate work culture, the one you personally create as a leader. Circle the statements that describe how your work group is operating 90 percent of the time.

A Trust Currency Quiz for Leaders:

  1. Ideas are shared freely in this department; contribution, collaboration, innovation, and cooperation thrive.
  2. Victim thinking, finger-pointing, and negative storytelling are infrequent.
  3. People own their mistakes or errors and quickly correct them without prompting.
  4. Best performers stay while others self-select; the performance bar is high and personal accountability is a norm.
  5. There are few surprises. People keep each other and me up to date and informed. Regular feedback and dialogue is commonplace.
  6. Healthy conflict, grounded with best-of-self behaviors like integrity, ethics, and big-team thinking prevails.
  7. People like each other and show care and concern for one another, even volunteering to pitch in when others need assistance, without needing to be asked.
  8. Deadlines are regularly met; people can count on each other to keep their commitments or be informed something needs to shift.
  9. People volunteer to take on new assignments or be involved in projects, regularly putting in extra effort to achieve personal and organizational goals.
  10. People do great work around here because they enjoy what they do, have pride in their work, and are self-engaged.

The behaviors above are a sampling of those regularly seen from engaged people. If these aren't the behaviors you see 90 percent of the time from your work group, you don't have an engagement problem, you have a trust problem. Start there. Bottom line? As a leader, the way to engage others is by creating an environment founded on trust where people can be self-engaged; where they can show up and do great work.

More tips about making and spending trust currency at work:

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