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Coach's Review Archives
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Each quarter I post a review of a leadership/motivational book I recommend to colleagues and friends. Some may be old favorites, others are hot off the press. I am always open to suggestions for books to review. If you have a favorite you'd like to share with others, please contact me.

Restoring Trust in the Workplace
by Victor R. Buzzotta

Having gone through the pain of reengineering, restructuring, merging, downsizing, or what have you, business leaders are living with the aftermath. The consequences of our past actions, no matter how necessary, have made the establishment of trust in the workplace an imperative for senior management. Why? Because trust is an essential ingredient not only for improving performance, but for sustaining it during turbulent times. The more trust an organization engenders among its people, the more those people will be committed to its mission, goals, and bottom-line results.

While trust is a complex feeling that is difficult to explain, there are four characteristics essential to building trust:

Integrity: acting in a forthright and truthful manner. We MEAN what we say.

Consistency: maintaining a compatibility between words and actions. We DO what we say.

Reliability: being dependable, keeping promises. You can COUNT ON what we do and say.

Interdependence: establishing a relationship, a sense of two parties relying on each other and, accordingly, acting in each other's best interest. We are all in this together.

In the work-place, trust is raised or lowered by identifiable actions and
behaviors. The entire organization's actions and behaviors, represented by its rules, procedures, practices, systems, and communication patterns, affect the level of trust among employees. When an organization is inconsistent, dishonest, breaks its promises, shuts down communication, is overly secretive and excludes its people from decision making, trust dwindles. The same dynamics occur in one-on-one encounters. The actions and behaviors of individuals--one's boss, co-workers, and direct reports--raise and lower trust, as people judge us more by our actions than our intentions.

High performance cannot occur in an atmosphere of mistrust. By examining the characteristics of high-performing organizations, we begin to identify those that help build trust. High-performing organizations have the following characteristics:

They know where the company is going.  All high-performing organizations have a clear purpose and direction. The employees understand how they serve and profit by their association with the organization. Moreover, when actions are consistent with the espoused vision, mission, and values, trust grows.

They put the right people in the right jobs.  High-performing organizations know what competencies they need to achieve their objectives. Putting the right people in the right jobs verifies the organization's commitment to its vision, mission, and goals.

They develop and enable workers.  High-performing organizations are committed to constant improvement, including the training and development of employees. That commitment indicates a sincere interest in all organization members. Investing in employees development not only enhances employees value to the organization but also prepares employees for higher positions and greater marketability. Acting in the interest of others builds trust.

They keep employees on track.  A high-performing organization provides the signals and information that keep their people on track and, as a result, keep it on course. Providing feedback that helps employees improve performance, and then rewarding the actions and behaviors asked for, builds trust.

How can your organization foster trust? There are several practices that build trust at both the individual and organizational levels:

Walk the talk.  Is there a gap between your intentions and behavior? Trust is produced when the actions of leaders demonstrate the values and principles they advocate.

Put into place systems and procedures that produce the desired behaviors and actions.  Take a fresh look at what guides your leaders and the people who report to them. Worker's roles must be defined clearly and accurately. Performance measurement must reflect what needs to be achieved. Rewards should enable people to see how they are helping meet organizational objectives.

Top leaders must be visible and vocal. Make certain leaders articulate a compelling vision; set high expectations; demonstrate personal excitement; and show personal support, interest, and confidence in the organization and its people.

While workers may trust the people around them, and their bosses may behave in ways that promote trust, there's nothing like sincere signals coming from the top to generate openness and trust.  As the organization's number-one advocates, top leadership must demonstrate a genuine commitment to the values and goals they encourage others to embrace.

Make sure the organization communicates clearly and often to the employees the true state of the union:  the goals, aspirations, and achievements of the organization.  No one likes bad news, but trust will never flourish in an organization that continually hides the facts from workers when the enterprise is having troubles.

Openness builds trust.  Openness makes employees partners in the future of the organization. To achieve corporate goals and aspirations, trust employees and tap into their energy and enthusiasm.

Build a history of trust.  Few leaders, and even fewer organizations, gain trust instantly. It takes time. Success breeds success, and organizations that build a history of being trustworthy develop a reputation that attracts the kind of people who keep the culture of trust rolling. The building cycle is shortened considerably as the newly hired experience a trusting work environment.

Begin now!  Trust was the sacrificial lamb during the radical changes of the past. If companies want to reap the full benefit of what was accomplished then, now is the time to make the renewal of trust in the workplace a matter of the highest priority.

V.R. Buzzotta is co-founder, Chairman of the Board of Psychological Associates, and CEO of Dimensional Worldwide. He has consulted with senior executives from major corporations in North and South America, Europe and Australasia. He has authored numerous articles on the human side of business, as well as co-authored four books on applied behavioral science. He has promoted the uses of common-sense methods to select and develop the high-performing personnel needed to meet the challenges of ever-accelerating change. He is a member of the American and Missouri Psychological Associations, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Dr. Buzzotta may be reached via his e-mail address:

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