Governance Collective | Sydney

Trust me – I know what I’m doing

Why trust is such a complex thing

Trust is such an interesting word. It is crucial for business environments to flourish and yet it’s one of those intangibly abstract things where building trust takes heaps and heaps of work. And yet, you can lose it all in an instant – and sometimes you may never know why.

A little while back, a study on trust published by the American Educational Research Association synthesised the research on trust as it relates to organisational processes such as communication, collaboration, climate, organisational citizenship, collective efficacy, achievement, and effectiveness (you can read the details of the study here).

The study recognised that trust is fundamental to the functioning in our complex and interdependent society. However, while there is widespread agreement on its importance, there is a high level of difficulty defining trust because it is a complex concept that needs to be considered in light of its context.

Trust, like all relationships is multifaceted and requires open communication, collaboration and time.

Building a trusting relationship with someone is a very personal, subjective experience. How someone feels about you is fundamentally based on trust. In the work environment, employees want to trust their bosses, their colleagues and the organisation. The Board wants and needs to trust the CEO to move the business towards its approved strategic outcomes.

There are many variables that make up trust – everyone hopes that the people around them are truthful, have integrity, are reliable, and competent. We all hope that they act on good intentions with transparent motives. We want them to provide full disclosure on the right things and we want them to be fair, just, predictable and measured with humility and their authentic self at all times.

Creating an environment where individuals consider all of these variables is a lot of work, yet not having trust can be very costly to businesses. As the study indicates, ‘as trust declines, the cost of doing business increases because people are increasingly unwilling to take risks, demand greater protections against the possibility of betrayal and increasingly insist on costly sanctioning mechanisms to defend their interests’.

As businesses scale up, many of the ideal frameworks and processes that help embed trust are developed and evolved as their size increases. But for some, the business grows so fast it isn’t until the attributes for a trusting ethical environment are not being demonstrated that Boards, CEOs and Business owners and leaders need to stop, take stock and consider proactively stating the ideal culture for the business.

Is this happening in your business? Is everyone owning and demonstrating the stated values and behaviours and contributing positively to a trusting culture? Are you having conversations on what good trusting behaviour looks like and are individuals in your business being held to account for behaviours that negatively impacts the culture and erode trust?

If their answer is no to some or all of these questions, that’s where we can help. If you’d like some help enhancing your work environment to be more ethical and encourage trust, we’d love to chat. You can call Lisa on 0418 218 157.