Three things leaders can do differently in 2017 to build trust

To build trust helps to fuel business growth. This is an irrefutable truth, supported by research from highly respected organisations the world over.

Only recently, the Harvard Business Review included a fascinating article on the neuroscience of trust (read it here) reporting the significance of trust on work performance.

According to the author Paul J Zack, respondents whose companies were in the top (trust) quartile indicated they had 106% more energy and were 76% more engaged at work than those from the bottom quartile. What’s more, those working in high-trust companies enjoyed their jobs 60% more and were 70% more aligned with their companies’ purpose.

Our own research with the CMI (you can find out more about this here) reported that in rapidly growing organisations, 68% of managers have high trust in their leaders. A sharp contrast to companies in decline, where just 15% of middle managers fully trust their leaders.

So … I think we can all agree that trust is an essential pre-requisite of a successful business. It’s also well documented that good leadership communication is fundamental to building trust.

But what are the top three things leaders can do in 2017 to successfully build trust?

Share your thinking

Our research with the CMI indicated a powerful desire for openness … a need to understand the motivation and reasons for leaders’ actions. 31% of respondents do not believe their leadership team works closely with them to communicate their vision and business strategy. That’s a massive missed opportunity when you consider that middle managers are the most trusted in an organisation.

Openness also featured strongly in our earlier report with the University of Westminster Business School and the IoIC (download the report here) which indicated that leaders should be authentic, communicating openly and honestly at all times.

And remember, trust is personal. Nothing beats personal, face to face contact to build trust. Respondents repeatedly stressed the importance and value that they placed on business leaders who engage with everyone in the business and keep everyone informed in an open, honest fashion.

Show vulnerability

The HBR article reinforces key points from both our Middle Manager Lifeline report – which showed that 54% of middle managers said they wanted business leaders to admit their mistakes – and from our Trust in Leadership research, which urged leaders to acknowledge their own errors.

So it’s OK to admit mistakes.

In fact it’s imperative if you want people to believe you and believe in you.

There is nothing weak about accepting and acknowledging that you could have done things better / differently.

Live your company values

A simple fact of life – supported by all our own research and plenty more besides – is that great leaders always live by a clear set of values.

Specifically, from our Trust in Leadership report, a key learning for leaders was to ‘articulate, illustrate and be evangelical about a clear set of values and behaviours supported by genuine management commitment and rigorous training and discipline’.

Essentially … walk the walk! (Read our blog on how the Top Banana leadership team did just this in 2016 here).

Only be demonstrating your own belief in and willingness to live by your organisation’s values can you expect others to do the same.

The rewards are great

Focus on getting these three important drivers of trust right in 2017 and your business will surely reap the rewards.

According to the HBR article, compared with people at low trust organisations, people at high trust companies report:
74% less stress
106% more energy at work
50% higher productivity
13% fewer sick days
76% more engagement
29% more satisfaction with their lives
40% less burnout

That’s pretty compelling stuff!

Get in touch if you’d like to know more about building trust through great leadership communication in your organisation – 01562 700404 or drop us a message to

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