A Time Management Article by Harold Taylor

Trust, like time, is one of the essential intangibles that everyone understands until it comes to define it and put it into practice. The Webster New World Dictionary defines it as “a firm belief in integrity, reliability, justice, etc. of another person.”

To gain the complete trust of anyone requires a host of virtues, including honesty, reliability (a good track record), and both empathy and compassion. Building trust requires the leaders in an organization to be exceptional communicators, and in particular, effective listeners – in addition to the other leadership skills, such as planning and delegation.

Lack of trust is emerging as the biggest problem in human relations, not just within organisations, but in politics, marriage, and society in general.  Trust is an essential part of all healthy relationships. Yet there seems to be a gradual erosion of trust over the years. In my father’s time, it was common to transact business with a handshake. Now, contracts are becoming more complex and all-inclusive. Marriages frequently come with prenuptial agreements, and the increasing lack of trust in politics is becoming even more obvious.

The results of this lack of trust are evident in the increasing litigation, divorces, and political discord over the years. This lack of trust has spread throughout society, and we are all impacted. Our need to lock our doors, keep our passwords secure, watch out for scams, and tell our kids not to talk to strangers are only a few of the consequences.

If there is a lack of trust in your organization, how do you know what your employees are doing when you are not looking? Are they being honest in their reporting or simply saying what you want to hear? Are you getting all the facts, or are they being filtered to make them look better? Is there criticism, cynicism, or negativity evident? A lack of transparency? How about bickering, animosity, discrimination, lack of cooperation etc. among some of the teams?

Employees at high-trust companies report less stress, more energy at work, high productivity, and greater engagement according to research outlined in the Harvard Business Review.

Trust is essential in a healthy corporate culture. Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors within the organization that determine how a company’s employees and management team interact and handle outside transactions with customers, suppliers, and the public. It is reflected in many things including dress code, business hours, perks, customer service, management style, employee relations, and so on.

Leaders who prioritize trust and respect are usually successful in reducing absenteeism, turnover, grievances – while improving productivity, cooperation, and attitude.

A Columbia University study found that “popular workers were seen as trustworthy, motivated, serious, decisive and hardworking and were recommended for fast-track promotion and generous pay increases.”

To gain the trust of others, you must be able to empathize with them. Doctor Henry Cloud, in his book, Integrity, describes empathy as “the ability to enter into another person’s experience and connect with it in such a way that you actually experience to some degree what the other person is experiencing. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes for a moment or two will give you an idea of what the other person is going through, and perhaps why that person is reacting or behaving the way they do. It also helps you to listen more effectively so that you don’t just hear what the person is saying, but also understand why he or she is saying it. Understanding and connecting with others is important if you are going to build trust.

David Morehouse, writing on empathy in the January 15, 2022, edition of the Telegraph Journal, provides examples of helpful statements to use when empathizing with someone going through a crisis or under stress or reacting inappropriately. He suggests you might say such things as,

I am sorry you feel that way.

I would be upset too.

What do you find hard right now?

You are not alone.

Thank you for sharing with me.

He refers to such statements of empathy as “verbal acts of kindness.” The words must be appropriate for the situation of course, but showing empathy is a win-win situation for both parties. In David Disalvo’s book, What makes your brain happy and why you should do the opposite, he offers a scientific explanation that when we are trusted, the brain releases the neurochemical oxytocin and induces a desire to reciprocate the trust we have been shown, even with strangers.

Trust requires more than just words. People who frequently say, “Trust me,” frequently can’t be trusted.


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