Would you like to build an optimistic, productive, and a self-driven team? Or to create a positive workforce that’s not just spot on with deliverables, but also loyal to the organization?

If yes, a simple way to do it is by nurturing trust. Paul J. Zak, renowned neuro-economist, substantiates the importance of trust in his book Trust Factor. He talks about a London-based management consulting company, Eden McCallum, which created an exemplary balance between hierarchical control and complete self-management. Around 500 individuals consult for the company but aren’t on its payroll. Instead, they’re empowered to pick their own projects and all Eden McCallum does is alert them when there is one. This model provides the company with experienced consultants who deliver great results at reduced costs, compared to enterprises with conventional staffing policies.

What makes this model so successful? Mutual trust between the work force and the management.

While it’s not feasible for all companies to adopt this model, what’s essential in organizations, across industries, is trust. Employees in high-trust companies show 74% less stress, 50% higher productivity, and 76% more engagement than those in low-trust environments. How can you earn these benefits? Zak has some suggestions:

Show your vulnerable side. American Author Eric Sevareid said, “Better to trust the man who is frequently in error, than the one who is never in doubt.” Even a leader is allowed his share of mistakes and doubts. When you show your vulnerable side, your team understands that making mistakes and clarifying doubts is acceptable, and so is seeking help.  That way, everyone learns and trusts each other.

Allow your people to pick projects to work on, where possible. Zak calls this ‘job crafting’ which promotes autonomy in the team. Also, when a leader empowers his team with the freedom of choice, the team, in turn, trusts him and performs better. A culture of flexibility is a good indicator of a high-trust organization. In Trust Factor, Zak emphasizes the importance of flexibility by talking about a survey in which “Sixty-four percent of LinkedIn members said they would value more flexibility at work over a 10 percent pay raise.”

Encourage individual growth. Individuals value both professional and personal growth. Some see professional advancement as the most important goal, others value work-life balance, and then there are those who want to make the world a better place. When you recognize these differences, you acknowledge their priorities and don’t just see them as employees. This encourages them to trust you.

Induce the right amount of challenges. Zak suggests inducing ‘challenge stress’ to the team by assigning difficult but achievable tasks. Moderate amount of stress releases chemicals in the human brain that increase social connections. This in turn results in bonding, fosters trust, and helps the team achieve better results.

Share information. Lack of information about an organization’s direction can cause chronic stress among employees. It triggers speculation which eventually impacts the team’s morale. As a good leader, update the team on all relevant information about the organization, helping nurture mutually beneficial relationships.

While there are other behaviours a leader can adopt to become more trustworthy, these are great starting points. How have you built trust within your teams? Tell us!

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