Have you ever encountered a situation where individuals or teams “wait” for others to deliver on a commitment or on a portion of a project, before they themselves start working on their own part?
Has this happened to you?
Unfortunately, this dynamic occurs far too frequently in organizational life: we either don’t trust others to deliver by agreed-upon dates, or we expect poor results.
Consequently, we refrain from doing our work in parallel to theirs because we don’t trust that our parts will mesh correctly at the end. We justify this by saying: “Why should I get started now when they’re going to be late anyway? I may even have to do their work!”
The productivity hit to companies worldwide, resulting from insufficient trust, probably numbers in the millions of dollars. What is it costing you and your company?
Author Stephen M.R. Covey, in his book The Speed of Trust, suggests that a direct relationship exists between speed and trust, and an inverse relationship between cost and trust. When trust decreases, the speed of execution also decreases, while cost increases. When trust increases, however, the speed of execution also shoots up, while costs go down. There are huge economic and emotional advantages to building greater trust within organizations.
There are three important components that govern the amount of trust that we’re willing to grant to another person: sincerity, competence, and reliability.
When someone makes a promise to us, we typically tune in first to their sincerity: are they sincere in their commitment, or are they just wanting us to go away? Next, we evaluate their skills, experience, and resources to get the job done. Lastly, we examine our history with that person: have they kept their promises in the past? Can I count on them? We unconsciously assign people a “trust score” based on those three components. When you multiply the various trust scores across the multitude of commitments that take place daily in an organization, the impact has a direct consequence to your bottom line.
What can we do to build greater trust with others?
In my experience, the simplest and most effective way to build trust is to only make promises and commitments that we intend to keep, and then to deliver on those promises/commitments per agreed-upon conditions of satisfaction (e.g., delivery date, content, format, etc.). You may counter, however, that circumstances outside of our control may prevent us from delivering on some commitments. Although there is truth in that statement, our experience also shows that we can build trust under those circumstances by quickly informing, offering restitution, and negotiating a new commitment.
Incidentally, what happens when we make promises to ourselves that we intend to keep, and we then deliver on those promises? We build greater trust with ourselves! In other words, we increase ourself-confidence.
I invite you to begin noticing well-run organizations where trust-building has been incorporated into their cultural fabric, beginning with the top executive team. Notice their profitability, market share, brand loyalty, reputation, and employee turnover. Now, look at yourself and your company.
Where can you take concrete steps to begin increasing individual and organizational trust scores over the next 6 months?