Think of every valued relationship you have been involved in and I am confident that if I ask you “how much do you trust the other person?” you would most likely say, “implicitly”.

Trust is the one thing that will truly affect every relationship you are in, whether that be family, a sporting team or a working team within an organisation etc.

There is no surprise then, that business leaders and managers also seek to establish the highest levels of trust among their people, in their teams and across every department of the organisation.

Patrick Lencioni (American author) explores the reality of team dynamics and considers the solutions to help teams work better in his book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’. As with so many others, Lencioni’s model suggests that trust provides the foundations that everything else is built upon and in the absence of trust, then other fundamentally essential components of high-performance teams will be significantly affected. In fact, if this foundation fails then the team will fall apart.

While developing trust among the team, there is the acknowledgement that vulnerability will exist. Being open and honest in your communication when giving and receiving feedback is essential when building trust, therefore developing a positive feedback culture will help enormously. The kind of environment that will promote this kind of communication is perhaps best described in the Harvard Business Review of Google’s ‘Project Aristotle’, where they identify that one common component of the 184 high performance teams they researched, had established a ‘Psychological Safe Zone’. This is when the team members feel free to offer their thoughts, ideas and opinions without the fear of ridicule. When they feel it’s ok to challenge the way we do things or the behaviour of others and yes, that does mean the MD. It also means that people are more likely to be accountable for the actions and decision making because if they get it wrong and own up to it, they know that they will be supported rather than be vilified.

Another incredibly useful resource regarding trust, is the super insightful detail given by Frances Frei in her TED Talk – ‘Building & Re-building Trust’. Frances was a Harvard Business School Professor, who has spent many years investigating how leaders can create an environment that allows individuals and organisations to thrive. During this talk, Frances shares her key findings, explaining in detail the importance and impact of being:

  • Empathetic
  • Logical
  • Authentic

In Stephen M. R. Covey’s book – ‘The Speed of Trust’, he writes about the 5 Waves of Trust model which derives from the ‘ripple effect’ metaphor that graphically illustrates the independent nature of trust and how it flows from the inside out.

  • First wave – Self Trust
  • Second wave – Relationship Trust
  • Third wave – Organisational Trust
  • Fourth wave – Market Trust
  • Fifth wave – Societal Trust

As we all move through the various stages, we will have varying degrees of influence but what we do know is that we all have extraordinary influence on the first two waves and this is where we should begin. It is also known that as you move through the five waves, it becomes clear that trust at every level can be traced back to individual trust issues at the first wave. Establishing trust at the first wave, will indeed have a significant positive impact at each other level.

A quote from ‘The Speed of Trust’

“You can’t have success without trust. The word trust embodies almost everything you can strive for that will help you too succeed. You tell me of any human relationship that works without trust, whether it is a marriage or a friendship or a social interaction; in the long run, the same thing is true about business, especially businesses that deal with the public.”

Jim Burke, Former Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson

To conclude, I can confidently report that after more than 35 years of supporting the learning, personal development and performance of individuals, teams and organisations across a wide variety of sectors, that success is fundamentally built on the necessity of establishing and maintaining trust.

I hope that the above information resonates with every reader and accurately reflects your experiences too. I also hope that it provides you with some thought-provoking models and research, to help guide you with areas of focus as you continue developing the kind of relationships that will enrich every part of your lives.

If you would like to respond to this blog or would like to discuss this subject matter in greater details, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Graham…