The power of the interpersonal.

With daily advancements in technology and digital communication, you could say we live in a more connected world than ever before. Yet, in many ways, the latest research seems to be telling us that actually, we don’t and are seemingly less connected, which is having a serious impact on the way that our society operates.

Much of this comes down to trust.

The UK has suffered a trust crisis of epic measures in recent years. Whether it was caused by the European Union, the global finance community, politicians or the collection of high profile business leaders who have fallen from grace, there is no doubt that the global property of ‘trust’ has been seriously impacted.

Trust reaches a low point

This is particularly true of business communities. Trust in UK business suffered a serious decline following the 2008 global financial crisis, reaching its lowest recorded levels in 2014 with just one in four members of the public trusting business leaders to do the right thing, one in five to tell the truth and 54% believing that business greed is the main driver behind innovation, according to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Fast forward two years and things are improving with this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer revealing that trust in all four institutions (NGOs, government, business and media), has reached its highest level since the recession. But another key finding of this year’s survey was that CEOs must communicate more openly and directly with employees.

Issues that have arisen around the EU referendum have only served to thrust the topic back into the public consciousness.

Trust has been deteriorating, but the plethora of communication technologies has been growing, which, while seemingly making communication easier than ever before, has actually been working to the detriment of our relationships in both business and wider society. Looking into the whites of people’s eyes seems to have been replaced in too many instances with e-newsletters, CEO bulletins and podcasts.

Trust in Leadership

Top Banana commissioned the ‘Trust in Leadership’ report to look at this issue, working with Westminster Business School, the University of Westminster and the Institute of Internal Communication last year. Citing, and rigorously evidencing, the clear disconnect between the ease and frequency of electronic communication and employees’ desire to talk and exchange, the report vigorously makes the case for the central role of face to face communication to equip business leaders today to address the ongoing trust crisis.

Reaffirming that face-to-face communication is still considered the most reliable and allows people to rapidly evaluate the openness and honesty of leaders and managers, thus allowing them to build trust, the report highlights the impact of rich communication, that is relevant, insightful, clear and honest, in gaining trust, which is most often achieved through face to face communication. It’s the ‘whites of the eyes’ piece that a phone call, email, teleconference or even video conference to some extent can’t achieve.

Understanding this is vital for business leaders of today, who should be working hard, continuously, to make themselves visible for both formal and informal interactions. This is everything from the more structured regional roadshow or company wide event to working from a place of visibility with an open door policy to walking the floor and making a conscious effort to interact with employees at every opportunity.

The digital revolution is a wonderful thing, with many benefits for business and society, but now, more than ever, we must never forget the power of the interpersonal.