We use the word trust all the time. We know how important it is at all levels within an organization as well as with our customers, vendors, opinion leaders, and community. But like so many broad and powerful words, we rarely dig deeper for a more comprehensive and meaningful understanding of what the word means at an emotional level. The word is essentially meaningless if it carries no emotional value.

For us, when working with clients, we talk about the “felt experience” from our words and actions because it is precisely the felt experience of human beings that drives them to act, to wonder, to be curious, to behave differently.

The primary felt experience of trust is safety. If we trust someone, such as our immediate supervisor/manager, then they become safer to us. It is okay to be open and honest (vulnerable) with them. Our guard drops, we are able to focus more on what we are doing rather than on protecting ourselves or being defensive. The felt experience is one of being safe, comfortable, and at ease. It opens up workplace bandwidth.

All of these characteristics nurture engagement. If we want our employees to be more engaged in what they do, they need to trust us. Without trust, it would be difficult to get the high levels of engagement that translate to increased productivity and satisfaction.

So here are a few ways that you can build trust within your organization. Feel free to comment on other practices you think could be added to the list.

  • Predictability – Your employees don’t have to wonder what mood you’ll be in or how you’ll react to something. Your predictable behavior calms their nervous system.
  • Consistency – Keep your demeanor, behaviors, and frequency in which your behaviors and actions occur the same as much as possible. Consistency leads to predictability.
  • Integrity – Integrity and vulnerability go hand in hand. Don’t be afraid to admit to mistakes. Showing employees how you uphold your values even in tough situations is the best way to set the foundation for a healthy, trustworthy culture.
  • Fairness – Be aware of how you treat your employees. Fairness is treating all employees with equal respect while knowing when to recognize and celebrate top performers (without crossing a line into favoritism).
  • Congruence – Use your company’s core values as a guide. Encourage all teams to lead through the lens of the company’s core values to keep a cohesive feel to the organization as a whole.

Best Practice:

Write these words down with two columns next to each. In one column, list the ways your organization successfully demonstrates each. In the other column, brainstorm new ways you can exhibit these practices in more impactful ways.