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Do You Trust Me? In High Performing Organizations, the Answer is Yes

Have you ever observed, or if lucky, been a part of, an organization that is engaging, productive and innovative? Have you ever wondered what the common thread is – what is the element in these organizational cultures that allows them to be so successful.  The science would tell you that the common thread is trust.

In his book, Trust Factor , Paul J. Zak, the Director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate University, makes a compelling case that when we experience an interaction in which we are trusted by another, our brain releases the chemical oxytocin, signaling that you are a person I want to be around, so I treat you nice in return. It is the science behind the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.  And it is just as applicable to in the workplace as it is to life.

High performing organizations have high interpersonal trust and highly motivated employees. When you foster a culture of trust and marry it with a strong sense of organizational purpose, you are laying the groundwork for improved performance in your organization. In order to foster a culture of trust, leaders should keep the following in mind:

1. Recognition and Reward . While compensation is important, recognition and rewards that flow from a true appreciation of the person and their accomplishments is key. Taking the time to invest in an employees’ career and personal growth demonstrates appreciation and investment in the whole person.

2. Innovation and Autonomy . Allowing employees more autonomy and control over their work is a strong indicator of trust.  Allowing employees more control over the when, where and how of their work can often lead to greater innovation and productivity.

3. Humans, not robots . Be open and transparent about what is going on in the workplace. Be honest, even if it means acknowledging a mistake. And be caring towards those you work with. As humans, we all crave these things from others.  There is no compelling reason to check these emotions at the office door.

A culture of trust is key, but trust without a strong sense of purpose can be a wasted opportunity. Purpose is a powerful, resonating narrative of the reason why an organization exists, its meaning, and its vision. Challenge the leadership in your organization to develop a focused, well-defined, organizational purpose. Zak uses the simple equation: Trust x Purpose = Joy. And Joy at work is something worth striving for.