Building a Corporate Culture of Trust

Are you winning with your company culture?  Most organizations are trying to lead the way in this area, but it can be difficult to know how to invest your time and financial resources.  What practices will drive engagement, quality, production and profit?  And what are fads that may create a positive indicator in the beginning but have a short shelf life?

In the January-February 2017 edition of the Harvard Business Review, Professor Paul J. Zak shares the results of his studies that identify 8 management behaviours that will create a culture of trust.  Zak writes “you cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and getting out of their way.”  There is a balance between keeping people accountable and treating them as “responsible adults.”

Zak’s article caught my attention because he links building a corporate culture of trust with neuroscience research, specifically what actions caused the release of oxytocin (creating a feeling of trust) and which ones inhibited the chemical in the brain. 

According to Zak, 8 behaviours that will foster a culture of trust in your organization are:

1.       Recognize excellence – reward an employee with praise that is genuine, personalized and shared with the team

2.       Induce challenge stress – give your teams goals that are possible yet will stretch them

3.       Give people discretion in how they do their work – after demonstrating competence in their job duties, offer employees a chance to achieve results in their own manner

4.       Enable job crafting – allow some discretion in the projects each employee takes on

5.       Share information broadly – open communication about the company’s direction will reduce uncertainty

6.       Intentionally build relationships – aiming to build a culture around trust requires that it is not only task-driven, but include a social component

7.       Facilitate whole person growth – assist your team members to grow broadly and not just up the corporate ladder

8.       Show vulnerability – promote collaboration across a team and be willing to ask for help (even when you’re the leader)

If you’re in a place where you want to turnaround your team’s spirit, consider starting with 2 or 3 on this list over the next 4 months.  You may find in the process you improve your own productivity and energy while decreasing stress as well.  Help your company’s leaders identify which systems are prohibiting trust from being a top value of the organization’s corporate culture.