Last week, I posted some questions I had about creating organizational trust. Trust has been on my mind lately because of my research in complexity leadership, innovation, and culture change. A common theme in all these fields is building trust. Well, I don’t believe you can directly build trust. I believe it emerges from the right organizational environment, good teambuilding, and enlightened leadership. Given this, what exactly can leaders do to best let organizational trust emerge?
In The Decision to Trust: How Leaders Create High-Trust Organizations, Robert Hurley lists ten factors in his Decision to Trust Model:
- Risk Tolerance
- Situational Security
- Benevolent Concern
The first three factors deal with the trustor’s personal characteristics. If a person has a low level of risk tolerance or are not well-adjusted, they are less likely to be trusting. A person who feels powerless is also less likely trust. Hurley (2012) explains his inclusion of these factors by arguing that leaders should focus on helping their employees develop their personal capability for trust as well as establishing an environment for trust.
The remaining seven factors are the situational factors. Situational security (Factor 4) deals with how much uncertainty there is in a particular situation. For example, employees would feel less secure in a RIF situation and thus are less likely to be trusting. This is tied into benevolent concern (Factor7) in which people are more likely to trust a leader who they know will consider the employees’ interests over their own. It also follows that a trustworthy leader is one who is perceived as capable (Factor 8).
Similarities (Factor 5), interests (Factor 6), and predictability/integrity (Factor 9) are also closely related. Similarities refer to social identity theory in which we are more likely to trust people who are most like us. Along with trusting people who are more like us, we are also trust people who share similar interests and whose behavior is predictable based on past experience.
Of the seven situational factors, communication (Factor 10) is the most important. As Hurley (2012) argues, good communication can create trust even if the other six factors are low whereas poor communication can foster mistrust despite high levels of security, similarities, interests, benevolent concern, capability, and predictability. This makes a great deal of sense because it takes a relationship to have trust and you can’t have a relationship (good or bad) without communication.
Building trust requires more than just one-way communication. It takes two-way communication or engagement. Leaders who want to create organizational trust should start by developing their employees’ abilities to trust through empowerment. Then, leaders should engage in constant dialogue where they demonstrate benevolent concern and integrity in their actions. Leaders should also foster a sense of community where employees can align their personal interests with organizational goals.
”As resources and talent become increasingly scarce, low-trust people, teams, companies, and nations will find themselves increasingly at risk” (Hurley, 2012, p. 197). Thus, the imperative for government leaders to create high-trust organizations. This is the best way to serve government employees and the American public.
Disclaimer: The opinions in this posting are solely mine and do not reflect the views and opinions of my employers or any organizations I belong to.
Hurley, R.F. (2012). The decision to trust: How leaders create high-trust organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.