Too often, training and development solutions don’t last or don’t solve the real issue hindering a business’ success. To overcome these challenges, kickstarting a successful trust-building effort across your organization requires attention on both the initial impact and the ongoing reinforcement.

Make an Initial Impact

The first step is to create a shift in the way you think about trust. Most people think trust is an ambiguous, complex concept that you either have or you don’t. In reality, however, it is the leading indicator of success — and you can build it.

At its core, every leadership and organizational problem is a trust problem. Consider: How long does it take you write an email to someone you trust? Hardly any time at all. What about sending an email to someone you don’t trust? The process of writing, rewriting and wondering how the other person might interpret the message is an enormous waste of time.

A lack of trust is every organization’s greatest expense. It costs time, turnover, productivity and efficiency. When an organization solves the core issue of trust, everything changes. Employee engagement increases, turnover decreases and customer referrals multiply.

But how do you actually build trust? My research has identified eight common traits of the most successful leaders and organizations of all time. I call these eight traits “pillars,” because they support the great advantage of being trusted. Here are the eight pillars and ideas for leaders to increase these traits in themselves:

Pillar 1: Clarity

Why clarity? People trust the clear and distrust the ambiguous.

One idea to increase clarity is to set daily priorities ahead of time and communicate expectations using the ODC method: Be specific on the outcome and deadline; then, ask clarifying questions to ensure alignment.

Pillar 2: Compassion

Why compassion? People trust individuals who put others’ interests ahead of their own.

One idea to increase compassion is to practice the LAWS of compassion: Listen, appreciate, wake up and be present in conversations, and serve selflessly.

Pillar 3: Character

Why character? People trust individuals who do what is right over what is easy.

One idea to increase character is to identify the top five personal values by which you make decisions so that people know what to expect from your character.

Pillar 4: Competency

Why competency? People trust individuals who stay fresh, relevant and capable.

One idea to increase competency is to systemize ongoing learning in your life and work. Read books and articles. Find a mentor. Listen to podcasts. Whichever methods you choose, continue developing your competency.

Pillar 5: Commitment

Why commitment? People trust individuals who stand through adversity.

One idea to increase commitment is to make and keep a commitment today. The fastest way to rebuild trust is to make and keep commitments.

Pillar 6: Connection

Why connection? People want to follow, buy from and be around positive relationships.

One idea to increase connection is to ask quality questions of a colleague this week. Don’t ask, “How was your weekend?” or, “What’s for lunch?” Instead, ask open-ended questions that give you the opportunity to understand the person and his or her life.

Pillar 7: Contribution

Why contribution? People immediately respond to results.

One idea to increase contribution is to write on a sticky note the top five tasks you can achieve today that will help drive your top priorities forward. If possible, have a number attached to each task.

Pillar 8: Consistency

Why consistency? People trust individuals who do the little things consistently.

Habits are a powerful way to demonstrate consistency in work and life. Choose a habit, write down its benefits and make a specific plan that you can enact right away to develop that habit. Then, select someone who is willing and able to encourage you and hold you accountable.

4 Keys to Creating a Lasting Impact

With the right resources, anyone can host an awesome event or create a buzz of excitement around a new initiative. The real challenge is making it last. Many employees have learned that training initiatives tend to be flavor-of-the-month methodologies that change with each new reorganization. Here are the four keys to a trust-building effort that makes a lasting impact:

1. The Trainers

If you want a training initiative to stick, employee must trust your leaders. They will only listen to trust-building champions if they’re genuinely building and living the eight pillars of trust for themselves. People can sense a fake from a mile away.

2. The Content

In an age of digital deception and surface-level solutions, people are looking for training that’s grounded in proven research and that serves a purpose beyond the bottom line. Use validated content with established reliability in the marketplace. Then, leverage it to serve the common good in addition to your business growth.

3. The Proof

Your leadership team, employees and clients need to see that what you’re teaching them genuinely works. Benchmark trust inside your organization, communicate often, and report on what’s working and what’s not. Ask for feedback, and make improvements accordingly. When you ask for feedback and fail to act on or communicate it, you lose trust.

4. The Reinforcement

Consistent reinforcement is crucial. Systematically integrate trust-building into regular business rhythms so that employees develop an expectation for pushing forward a high-trust culture. For example, send weekly reflection questions, distribute monthly trust content, align quarterly strategic priorities with trust and set annual goals that align with the eight pillars of trust.

A Case Study

A multi-location health organization built a high-trust culture resulting in a significant decrease in attrition. Here’s how:

    1. It started by hosting an organization-wide event to cast the vision and shift thinking around trust.
    2. Once there was an aligned vision, the team selected trusted individuals to carry the torch as ambassadors of building trust through the onboarding curriculum and ongoing workshops that focused on the eight trust traits.
    3. The team demonstrated the proof by sharing measurable results on a regular basis.
    4. Finally, the company reinforced trust-building by adding “pillar awards” during its annual events to acknowledge and celebrate employees who were demonstrating exceptional trust practices.

When you’re working to embed trust across your organization, remember to facilitate a shift in thinking around trust, use the eight pillars and implement the four keys to a successful trust-building initiative.

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