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How Trust Enhances Team Performance

Question for you. How do you decide whether or not you trust someone?

In the workplace, mistrust is like a spreading virus. If team members do not trust leadership, they will feel less invested and apathetic toward the outcomes of the company. They will likely work the bare minimum, probably not be innovative, and may be indifferent to disciplinary action. If leadership does not trust the team, then they are likely to micromanage, withhold information, and show favoritism for only a select group of people. The combination of this creates a vicious cycle of dysfunction.

On the other hand, employees in high-trust companies suffer less chronic stress, have more energy at work, and are more fulfilled which stimulates greater productivity and better collaboration with their colleagues. They will also remain with their employers longer than people working at low-trust organizations.

Outside of our own conscious decisions, even though we may not realize it, we (as humans) develop an abstract form of trust between one another on an instinctual basis before our thoughts even register. Many studies have shown that our brains release the chemical oxytocin in order to reduce our fear of trusting others. This chemical is strongly correlated with our ability to trust and be trusted.

We are hard wired to desire connection with one another, so our baseline is to assume trust. Our brain responds with this chemical based on a number of factors such as behaviors, body language, verbal expressions. Perhaps you can recall a scenario in your life when you were meeting someone new at the office or a networking event, and as you shook their hand something about them set off a “gut feeling” that they were not super righteous. Maybe later you thought to yourself “I don’t know, there’s something about that guy…”

In those circumstances your brain is telling you that the other person is not to be trusted. On a psychological level you detected a level of deception or inauthenticity. Very quickly an Elephant joined the networking event and his name tag read, “Hello. My name is Mistrust.”

In 2016, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth. But few take action to increase trust, mainly because they aren’t sure where to start. (HBR)

Here’s where I recommend you start to build trust.

Authentic leadership

Authenticity in the work place is not a new concept. But I want to offer an extra perspective on it. It can be hard to define “authenticity.” And sometimes it is easier to know what it is, by what it isn’t. You see something and think, “Oooh that’s very inauthentic.”

Recognize that authenticity does not have to be complete vulnerability and transparency. That can make authenticity feel threatening – full exposure is not required. What IS required is being relatable. Relatability creates a sense of security and confidence for others. They understand they can TRUST you because they understand more about YOU.

Being authentic is not a performance or a distraction from who you really are (your natural self). And there is a balance of being authentic without becoming unprofessional. Think about it this way – In your personal life, what you say and how you say it is determined by who you are speaking to and under what context. You may be very honest with both your spouse and parent about the same topic, but you will probably share with them in different ways and levels of depth.

It is the same within your organization. You speak to different people, in different contexts, in different ways. That’s not being inauthentic, it’s just various versions of your true self.

Your “me” at home, should still recognize your “me” at work.

Start with something as simple as sharing a narrative about camping with your family over the weekend. This is an indirect way to describe something you enjoy (camping) with something you value (family).

A colleague or employee can certainly relate to those to things (joy and values). In return you will build trust.

How do you think your colleagues or employees would view your authenticity in the workplace?


If you want more strategies on this topic, I cover the common dysfunctions of a growing organization and how leaders can shape high-performing teams accessed here.

Or you can schedule an intro call here (free of selling, full of in-depth advice).


Free Resource – 7 Early Warning Signs of Leadership Breakdowns

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In many ways, the success of an organization is a direct reflection of the leadership that oversees it. So we can correlate that it is in a company’s best interest to invest in the development of its leadership in order to grow faster and easier.

This resource provides 7 of the most common breakdowns in leadership that cause elephant-sized dysfunctions in a company. These issues are what I call the the Elephants in your Leadership. Things that have previously gone unnoticed, avoided, or ignored, and have elephant-sized repercussions for your organization.

You can download the resource here. As you read through this resource, try to spot areas of strength and recognize opportunities for development in the leadership for your organization.


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