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Building TRUST to GROW

Updated: Apr 3

According to a recent survey by Deloitte on How Boards nurture and measure trust, some interesting and contrasting responses make you think hard on how do we go about enhancing Trust within an organization. Here are some aspects of the survey that caught my attention:
  • The top 3 areas highlighted as having maximum impact due to Trust are Business Relationships, Employee Engagement and Customer Loyalty.

  • While more than two-thirds of the respondents say that Trust is proactively built into ongoing operations, 55% of the respondents acknowledged that they have moderate or low maturity in their organization.

  • Another interesting perspective is that 95% of the respondents feel that the Board has the primary responsibility for Trust as an agenda or co-owns the agenda with the management team. However almost two-thirds don’t have it in their cadence or never discuss Trust at a board level

  • 57% of the respondents do not have a mechanism to measure trust while almost the same number (58%) want to put in place an objective, consistent and ongoing measurement of trust in the organization

The same survey also highlights that the biggest challenge in front of business leaders is the lack of clarity around what to do and how to measure progress. Lets explore some ways to get this done.

Building Trust within an organization has two elements – transactional and personal.

Trust at Transactional level

The transactional elements are typically built into organizational policies and are seen in practice as experienced by the employees. E.g. in certain “High Trust” organizations, there is no leave policy, no reimbursement policy, clear boundary conditions for decision making, etc. While these practices can be tracked and measured, what really needs to be measured are the behavioural influences that helps implement these practices.

Here are three behavioural influences for Trust as laid out by Semcostyle Institute

  1. Transparency (information sharing, visibility of KPIs and KRAs across the organization, disclose all financial details to employees, reserving seats in board meetings for employees, etc)

  2. Power Distance (participative leadership, privileges to seniors, ability to speakup, empowerment, etc)

  3. Treating Adults-as-Adults (providing psychological safety, flexibility, instilling responsibility, shared decision making, etc)

By asking specific transactional questions to employees in the organization, these three behavioural influences can be measured and converted into an objective score not just for each of these elements but also for Trust at an organizational level.

By measuring Organizational Trust, leaders can then find areas under the three behavioural influences that merit corrective actions and create a pathway for building a “High Trust” organization.

Trust at Personal level

As individuals, we all leak emotions in our interactions with people around us. We also receive leaks from others. Much of this gets processed and forms the basis of opinions we develop about individuals.

If someone arrives late for two consecutive meetings, we form an opinion that this individual does not respect other’s time and hence arrives late.
If we stay quiet in meetings, we send an emotional leak that we are not confident enough to ask questions or we agree with all discussion points

At an individual level, we come across as trust worthy through our character, competence and intent. While competence can be enabled through necessary development programs or skilling initiatives, character and intent become visible through four personal traits namely:

  1. Reliability

  2. Accountability

  3. Vulnerability

  4. Integrity

By showing up as reliable, accountable, not being fearful of vulnerable situations and behaving with high integrity, we directly send emotional leaks about character and intent.

Building Trust is certainly not an overnight ride. It’s a journey that needs careful assembling of thoughts, taking people along and collectively giving the experience to all stakeholders.

Organizations like Marico, Irizar, Novartis have a Trust based culture and are consistently seeing tremendous growth for multiple years.

At the same time, when companies switched from a Trust based culture to more traditional operations, they actually got severely impaired for growth. Handelsbanken and Southwest Airlines are examples of such companies.

Trust is a foundation not just for a great organizational culture, but also to enable consistent growth.

For a detailed conversation on how to measure and build a high trust organization, please feel free to connect with me.


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