Building Trust In Teams and Organizations

June 10, 2022

Fixing Trust in Team

Building Trust in Teams and Organizations

The Edelman trust barometer measures levels of trust in governments, businesses, NGOs, and media around the world. Nearly 50% of all respondents viewed government and media as divisive sources in society. Fake news concerns are at an all-time high, fears are on the rise, and businesses must lead in breaking the cycle of distrust. The combination of a global pandemic, supply chain problems, increasing inflation, and the war in Ukraine has created a crisis in trust around the world.

While it’s impossible to restore the depleting loss of trust in societies around the world, there is something you can do to restore trust in your world.

Building Trust Starts By Understanding The Trickle-Down of Trust

A few years ago, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler researched how social networks shape our lives. One of their first studies focused on happiness. They found that if you had a friend that was happy, that could impact your happiness by 25%. They also found that if a friend of your friend (who you did not know) was happy, that could also impact your happiness. The power of social networks and their influence is far-reaching.

Additional studies have been done on social networks showing that smoking, divorce rates, obesity, and a variety of other factors are highly influenced by other people in our social networks.

Over the past two years, I’ve been doing extensive global trust studies for my new book, The Trifecta of Trust, looking at the trust between leaders, employees, and organizations.

The question I had was, “Is trust contagious?” 

If I trust you, are you more likely to trust another person? Likewise, if I distrust another person, are they more likely to distrust me?

 I compiled a dataset of 25,248 matching peers who had evaluated each other on how much they were trusted. Each set of peers assessed each other on the extent to which the peer was trusted by all members of the workgroup, trusted their peers’ ideas and opinions, and if they trusted this peer to use good judgment in making decisions.

 If a peer was rated in the bottom 10% on their trust ratings, their average rating of another peer was, on average, at the 41st percentile or nine points below average.

In other words, If I am not trusted, I am likely to trust you less.

If other peers were highly trusted in the top 10%, they rated their peers, on average, at the 63rdpercentile or 13 points above average.

In other words, if you trust me, I am likely to trust you also.

This research reinforces that if your peers do not trust you, you tend to not trust them. What can happen is that one mistrusted individual quickly bleeds into a new circle of never-ending mistrust that spreads faster than you realize.

Identifying Where Trust Is Lost 

Most people have worked in a situation where there was either a high level of trust or distrust between managers or colleagues. In a high-trust team, it’s natural to trust other team members. Seeing others trust each other encourages every team member to extend more trust. In a low-trust team, people learn immediately to be on guard. Team members are careful and hold back. To stop the spread of distrust, we must examine the triggers. Just as a doctor must ask the right questions to come to a correct diagnosis, many of your trust issues can be resolved by examining three behaviors that influence trust the most and determining what is present or missing.

The research in The Trifecta of Trust revealed that out of hundreds of behaviors that influence trust, only three account for the vast difference in the impact of individuals with high levels of trust and those not trusted at all.

1.     Expertise/Good Judgment

  •  Do you feel that this individual knows how to do their work?
  •  Are they honest about what they do and do not know?
  •  Does their level of expertise lead to good judgments and decisions?
  •  Do you question the decisions they make?

2.     Consistency

  • Does this person walk their talk and keep their promises?
  • Are they working hard to deliver the needed results consistently?
  • Is this individual a role model?

3.     Positive Relationships

  •  Do you feel like you can be open and candid with this individual?
  • Is this person a good listener and willing to invest time in relationships?
  • Do you feel like this individual takes advantage of others for their own gain?
  • Is this person genuine in their interactions?

These are some questions to carefully consider. If you are struggling with trusting a team member, rather than writing someone off or hoping your remote location gives you enough distance, it’s time to address the issues head-on. Because it not only affects your performance, but it influences those around you in every direction.

A person can be driven, agile, strategic, and an expert in their field, but without trust, it won’t count for anything.

The data shows that trust is the one leadership behavior that can positively or negatively affect everything else you do.

Imagine the Possibilities of Building Trust

If you are more trusted, that encourages others to be more trusted. Trust is contagious.

One of the most trusted leaders, the late Colin Powell, said, “Trust is the glue that holds people together and is the lubricant that keeps an organization moving forward.”

You can’t change the whole world, but you can change your environment and the environment of those around you. Every person deserves to work each day in a team that trusts each other. Start spreading trust.

– Joe Folkman