“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go in a team.” ~ African Proverb
Melbourne … rain. It’s so cliché, but here I am in Melbourne, staring out at the dismal misty greyness enveloping the city, displacing all warmth and joy.
Perhaps it was the dreariness combined with the light stupor that comes from being in a meeting all day, but as I was watching the incessant drizzling, I drifted into a contemplative trance, pondering the power of water.
By itself, one drop of water can do very little. No one notices the effect of one drop of rain. Though with more and more drops comes more and more change. Wet ground grows puddles, then tiny rivulets, then streams of water which, when they combine, can form a raging torrent strong enough to change entire landscapes in a day.
And then I wondered, what allows something so individually weak to be so forceful en masse? I don’t want to sound like a B-grade motivational speaker, but I think this is so important for any single person or organisation that wants to achieve anything of significance.
There are two properties that give a stream of water its power.
* A common direction
* A strong bond
As the sheer might of a violent surge so aptly demonstrates, there is immense power when small drops all combine to move together in one direction. Yet the former property is only possible because of the latter. Without the strong molecular bonds between them, water molecules would simply dissipate, along with all of their power.
So how can we apply this analogy to an organisation? Well, if an organisation wants to be successful in achieving whatever plans it has, each part of that organisation needs to be moving together in the same direction.
Ok, that’s rather trite, but bear with me, because my cathartic discourse isn’t about the power of common direction, but about the bonds that confer the power to the forward momentum.
The molecular bond of any powerful organisation is trust.
Stephen Covey wrote that, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
Peg Streep, writing in Psychology Today, wrote, “Trust is the foundation of all human connections, from chance encounters to friendships and intimate relationships. It governs all the interactions we have with each other. No one would drive a car or walk down a sidewalk, or board a train or an airplane, if we didn’t ‘trust’ that other people took their responsibilities seriously, and would obey whatever rules applied to the endeavour at hand. We trust that other drivers will stay in their lanes, that conductors and pilots will be sober and alert. And that people will generally do their best to discharge their obligations toward us. Culture, civilization, and community all depend on such trust.”
Trust means that we have confidence in the intentions and motives of others. For example, patients trust doctors because they have confidence that the doctor knows what they’re doing and has the patient’s best interest at heart. A recent meta-analysis showed that patients were more likely to have more beneficial health behaviours, less symptoms, higher satisfaction with treatment and a higher quality of life when they had higher trust in their doctor. Trust enables positive progress.
Trust brings cohesiveness organizationally as well as socially. If employees don’t trust each other or their managers then all sorts of problems start to arise: collaboration and communication stagnates, innovation ceases, employee engagement declines, productivity falls, and in general the workplace becomes unsuitable to be around.
Paul J. Zak is a neuroscientist that has studied the neuroscience and value of trust in the employees of Fortune 500 companies and in mountain tribesman. His data shows that employees who feel trusted perform better at work, stay with employers longer, and are significantly more innovative.
In order to foster trust, organisations have to build confidence in the intentions and motives of others – between workers and managers and between the workers themselves. When you have the confidence that your co-workers are going to pull their weight and do their jobs, it makes it easier to get on with yours. When you know management aren’t going to make arbitrary, selfish or irrational decisions, it’s much easier to follow their lead.
So how do you build trust within a relationship or an organisation? There are many ways to inspire confidence, but conflict resolution expert, Dr Aldo Civico suggests five different strategies:
- Trust generously – or in other words, trust first.
- Be patient and flexible. Trust is built over time.
- Be dependable and be reliable. Take your own words very seriously. Don’t make up excuses, take responsibility for mistakes. Don’t be afraid to apologise.
- Be consistent.
- Be open and transparent in your communication. Don’t undermine or backstab.
The rain has stopped here, now it’s just cold! I hope that you can grow trust in within your organisation so that you and your team can move forward with strength and purpose.
Streep, P., (2014) “The Trouble With Trust”, Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tech-support/201403/the-trouble-trust
Birkhäuer J, Gaab J, Kossowsky J, Hasler S, Krummenacher P, et al. (2017) “Trust in the health care professional and health outcome: A meta-analysis”, PLOS ONE 12(2): e0170988. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0170988
Smallwood, A., (2017) “This neuroscientist says work culture can’t thrive without trust”, Collective Hub. https://collectivehub.com/2017/06/this-neuroscientist-says-work-culture-cant-thrive-without-trust/
Civico, A., (2014) “5 Strategies to Build Trust and Increase Confidence”, Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-point/201404/5-strategies-build-trust-and-increase-confidence