Performance Management and Productivity Improvement through Trust

Trust is an essential part in managing people and building a high-performance organisation. It’s the foundation upon which all relationships are built. As in any relationship, trust is central to stable and productive workplace relations and successful team building initiatives. High trust environments correlate positively with high degree of employee involvement, performance management, commitment and organizational success. If trust is present in the workplace, the organization gets maximum effort and commitment, and the employees receive security and know they are appreciated.

However, our experience working in the private and public sectors of Australian industry, indicates a decline in trust in the workplace. A joint study by the Australian Institute of Management and Monash University supports this view, concluding that Australian business is facing a ‘crisis of trust’ threatening productivity and performance.i The study shows that while trust underlies all aspects of organisational culture, it is at a low ebb for managers across a range of industries and levels. The survey shows a strong correlation between trust and a positive workplace culture that emphasizes reward, supportiveness and stability. It shows that trust is strongly linked to attributes such as caring for colleagues, actively involving them in the company’s vision, mentoring, role modeling and inspirational motivation. The survey also reinforces findings of similar research projects around the world: The more high tech, impersonal and sophisticated organizations become, the greater the need for leaders who can build a culture of trust in the organization.

These findings should set the alarm bells ringing for senior management in Australia. “Trust and loyalty should be a priority for organizations, from the top down, as they have serious implications for individual and enterprise performance,” said Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Institute of Management in Queensland, Ms Carolyn Barker.

Smaller organizations consistently rated higher on job satisfaction, commitment, trust, loyalty and respect. The survey concludes “Creating smaller business units, flattening the management structure, involving staff in decision making and opening up timely and transparent channels of communication is central to creating trust in organizations.”

The Trust Triangle

1. Self-Trust – Inner Trust

Self-trust is based on acceptance of yourself and your own inner intuition and wisdom. It is that deep, intuitive sense or gut feeling about something. If you follow your inner intuition, your self-trust is high. Peter Block sums it up as “Trust comes out of the experience of pursuing what is true. What is true lies within each of us.” Self-trust is at the core of trusting others and being trustworthy.

2. Trustworthiness – Being Worthy of Trust

Usually when we think of trust, we think in terms of trusting others. But how trustworthy are you in others eyes? Do you follow through on your promises? Do you act with integrity? Are you honest, caring and reliable? Do you have the competence or skills to carry out the task at hand? Do you fulfill others’ expectations of you? You are worthy of others trust if you score high in these areas.

3. Trusting of others

Trusting others is based on:expectations. We typically trust someone if we know they will fulfill our expectations.We each have a set of characteristics, known only to us, of someone who we deem worthy of trust. Our degree of comfort with trust is also based on whether we see the world as a friendly, safe place or a hostile, unsafe place. The more we see the world as basically friendly and safe, the more open we will be to trusting others. The reverse is true if we see the world as unsafe and unfriendly.

Robert Bruce Shaw describes the cornerstones of trust as results, integrity and concern in his book Trust in the Balance. Results People who deliver what they promise and fulfill our expectations become trustworthy to us.