Trustworthiness in the Workplace
September 22, 2022 | BY Simcha Felder, CPA, MBA
Warren Buffett once said that “trust is like the air we breathe — when it’s present, nobody really notices. When it’s absent, everyone notices.” As anyone in the business world will tell you, trustworthiness is one of the most important assets for a business and one of the most essential forms of capital a leader has. No matter what kind of work your business does, it is critical that your customers trust you with their money and personal information, and that your employees trust you with their reputation and their careers.
Trust is the natural result of thousands of tiny actions, words, thoughts and intentions. It does not happen all at once – gaining trust takes time and work. It can take years for a manager or leader to develop the trust of their employees or customers, but it can only take a moment to lose that trust. Without trust, transactions cannot occur, leaders can lose teams, salespeople can lose sales…the list goes on. Trust and relationship, much more than money, are the currency of business.
Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, executives at a leadership development consultancy, analyzed over 80,000 employee assessments and found three elements that predict whether a leader would be trusted by his direct reports, peers and other colleagues:
Good Judgement/Expertise. One factor that influences whether people trust a leader is the extent to which a leader is well-informed and knowledgeable. A leader must understand the technical aspects of the work and be competent in their area of expertise. They must use good judgement when making decisions and exhibit a high degree of confidence in their ideas and opinions.
Consistency. Another major element of trust is the extent to which leaders do what they say they will do. This may seem obvious, but people rate a leader high in trust if they honor their commitments and keep their promises. Even something as simple as quickly returning emails and phones calls can go a long way in building trust.
Positive Relationships. According to Zenger and Folkman’s research, the most important element of trust is based on the extent in which a leader is able to create positive relationships with other people and groups. To instill trust, a leader must balance results with concern for others. Last month, we spoke about how to communicate with empathy – a critical element in building positive relationships. Leaders must also be able to generate cooperation between others and resolve conflicts in a helpful way.
Trust is a measure of the quality of any relationship — something worth investing a whole lot in.