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Examiner
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients.
Trust
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About this blog
By Stephen Balzac
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients with his 7 Steps Ahead philosophy. Whether you're trying to hire the right people or get your team on track, this is the place for accurate, useful ...
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Business Advice
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients with his 7 Steps Ahead philosophy. Whether you're trying to hire the right people or get your team on track, this is the place for accurate, useful information. Stephen is an expert on leadership and organizational development, a consultant and professional speaker, and author of \x34The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development,\x34 published by McGraw-Hill, and a contributing author to volume one of \x34Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play.\x34 Contact Steve at steve@7stepsahead.com.
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By steve
Aug. 22, 2013 11:06 a.m.



This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Organizational Psychology for Managers

Effective communications comes from building trust, and trust comes from taking the time to build connections with employees and from, yes, communicating. The problem is that many people don’t typically drop by to chat with the boss. If you only talk to the ones who do drop by, you end up with limited information and communications structure that’s more like a game of telephone. There is also a very good chance that you’ll split your team into an in group and an out group. If you really want to get people talking to you, you need to seek them out. IBM’s founder, Tom Watson, was legendary for showing up unannounced at different IBM locations and just dropping in to chat with different people. He was trusted as few CEOs have ever been: employees believed that he cared about them personally. The stories about him reflect that to this day.

Trust is not just about keeping your word. It’s also about living up to the image of leadership in your organization and honoring the implicit promises in the organizational story and culture. If the story your organization tells is one of people being recognized for their work, you need to make sure that happens.

If something happens to cause a breech of trust, you need to acknowledge it, apologize, and explain what happened. Economic conditions or other surprises sometimes mean that promises can’t be honored, be that a raise or sending someone to a conference they were looking forward to attending. When that happens, you need to be honest about the situation. Trying to deny it or fool people only compounds the problem whereas repairing trust makes it stronger.

In a very real sense, trust and safety go hand in hand: when we don’t trust someone, we don’t feel safe around them and, conversely, when we don’t feel safe around someone we also don’t trust them. We tend to be more on our guard and less willing to engage. Commitment, innovation, feedback, and intelligent risk taking are sharply reduced. Careless risk taking, on the other hand, tends to increase.

Trust, it must be remembered, is a two way street. As your employees learn to trust you, you also learn to trust them. That means developing an accurate picture of their strengths and weaknesses. If you force people to operate in their areas of weakness, they will be more likely to fail. This reduces your trust in them and causes them to view you as setting them up for failure. That, in turn, reduces trust in you.

Part of building trust is recognizing process. Every person in an organization tries to work in the ways they work best. Each person seeks to develop their own process. That process is, in a very real sense, a manifestation of who that person is in the organizational community. If you cannot trust someone’s process, you will not be able to trust them; conversely, if you do not trust someone’s process, they will not trust you: you are essentially telling them they cannot be who they are. When you trust someone’s process, however, you build trust in them and enable them to trust you. This increases productivity, motivation, and loyalty. Fundamentally, as psychologist Tony Putman observed, a person becomes what he is treated as being. How you treat the process is how you treat the person.

Recognize that trusting the process is not just about trusting that the results will be what you expect. That is important, but it’s a surprisingly small piece of the puzzle. There is no such thing as a perfect process and no process will always execute without something going wrong. True trust comes when you know that people can be trusted to handle mistakes and unpredictable events. Trust in our own skills comes from learning that we can make a mistake and recover; without that, trust is brittle. Trust in a process comes from recognizing that the process may sometimes give us the wrong answer, but it also gives us the ability to recognize that fact and recover.

Finally, how you act in a crisis can make or break people’s trust in you. A leader who panics in a crisis can undo months or years of team building and trust. On the flip side, being able to remain calm and focused in a crisis can increase trust as you become seen as someone who can be counted on when the chips are down. However, some trust must already exist for your behavior in a crisis to matter: in the Mann Gulch disaster, Wagner Dodge never built enough trust with his team for them to trust him when he figured out an innovative way to save their lives; as a result, most of them died. Conversely, after hurricane Sandy hit the east coast in October of 2012, President Obama won praise from some of his harshest critics for his calm, disciplined, organized response to the disaster.

Your response in a crisis is the model for how others will respond. If you remain calm and build safety, people will respond to that and trust you more than ever. If you panic, you will reduce perceptions of safety and trust will decline.



Organizational Psychology for Managers is phenomenal. Just as his talks at conferences are captivating to his audience, Steve’s book will captivate his readers. In my opinion, this book should be required reading in MBA programs, military leadership courses, and needs to be on the bookshelf of every Fortune 1000 VP of Human Resources. Steve Balzac is the 21st century’s Tom Peters.

Stephen R Guendert, PhD



CMG Director of Publications

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