In this article I take a ‘stripped back’ look at Trust at work. Some of the fundamental concepts I cover briefly include; awareness, integrity, results and trust as a doing word.

Trust is central to healthy relationships, performance and engagement at work. Having said that, trust is often hard to define. It is however very easy to see when trust is absent in a workplace. Trust is more than a reassuring feeling. It is a doing word. Trust is built on trustworthiness.

Like most strategies for improving interpersonal relationships, it all begins with a long hard look in the mirror. For the leader this means becoming secure and authentic in their role. This is much easier to do when you are ‘leading on purpose’. A definite sense of purpose provides an unchanging sense of core meaning to anchor decisions and actions to. If a leader is not secure within themselves it will be nearly impossible for them to build high levels of trust among their team.

Self-awareness also plays a key role in developing trust. Leaders need to become aware of their strengths and limitation. They need to consider how they come across to others and how they are perceived by them. To undertake such an examination requires a robust self-esteem to ensure they can cope with any disappointments they find. Without a healthy self-esteem, most people won’t begin the ‘self-examination’ required to develop self-awareness. Self-esteem is needed for a person to feel that they can fix any weaknesses they find from self-examination. Without this self-belief, people don’t tend to engage in self-examination. It is a great self-development catch 22.

The next thing to consider is how people ‘judge’ each other as being trustworthy, or not. Such judgements are based the other person’s behaviour, not just what they say. A person’s behaviour gives great insight into their character and their ability to achieve results. When it comes to assessing trustworthiness people not only want evidence of honesty integrity and truthfulness, they also want evidence of a person’s ability to achieve results.

Integrity is an important issue in all of this. Integrity can be simply viewed as whether a person keeps the promises they make. A person who operates with integrity is seen as dependable and therefore trustworthy.

Results are equally important. We’ve all worked with the honest person who has the best of intentions but lacks the competence to deliver a dependable quality result. Well-meaning people who can’t deliver the outcome, tend not to be trusted by others to get results.

Trust is a doing word. Trust is built from what a person does personally to be the best person they can PLUS what they do to contribute to positive relationships.

Think about what are you and the members of your team doing to maintain and build trust? So many teams are running on the edge. The relationship asset has not been maintained (or it has been abused). It’s like an engine running without any oil. At any moment the slightest hick-up could stop the engine from running or break it for good.

Maintaining trust in a relationship is like maintaining any asset. If you look after the asset with regular maintenance, it will continue working well. It will be there for you when you need it most. However, if you neglect the asset, it will run down and eventually fail permanently! It’s sad to think that some organisations will put more time and attention into maintaining the company car then they put into maintaining trusting relationships at work.

In order for trust levels to change for the better in your organisation, behaviour has to change. A key part of leadership training should be to encourage leaders to ‘do trust’ and to build a team culture where ‘doing trust’ is the norm rather than the exception.