It seems that trust has become a lost art in the working world. From adversarial supplier relationships to companies that refuse to do right by their employees, it quite often seems that everyone in the business world is only in it for themselves.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with keeping your best interests in mind, failing to consider how to create true win-win scenarios and subsequently not acting with high integrity likely will hurt everyone involved in the long run.
Leaders who work to restore trust with those they interact with stand to gain the most by creating true partnerships where everyone is treated with respect and valued.
Where Did Trust Go?
The 2022 Edelman “Trust Barometer” report revealed that one out of every three people don’t trust their company’s CEO—and less than half trust CEOs in general. Fifty-two percent believe that capitalism does more harm than good. The same survey, which collected over 36,000 responses from 28 countries, found that this was indicative of a broader cycle of distrust in politics, economics and even peoples’ ability to have civil debates.
Review news headlines, and it is easy to see how trust is disappearing. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has seen the tragic consequences of misinformation play out on the world stage as Russia attempts to justify its invasion.
Business-oriented headlines such as “Is Lying Part of Business?” further highlight how few in the business world expect those they interact with to behave with strict ethics. However, leaders who actively work to build trust can reshape perspectives and relationships for the better.
1. Trust Starts with Transparency
Transparency is key to an open and honest relationship. Stating clear expectations and providing genuine feedback and constructive criticism helps everyone involved in a relationship understand each other’s positions. Perhaps even more importantly, transparency entails a certain level of vulnerability.
Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D., a high-performance, neuro-socio psychologist, stated in a recent email conversation: “Transparency requires being okay with showing your weaknesses to those you interact with. We want to relate to actual human beings — not a person’s ‘official’ persona. Everyone in the working world has their strengths and weaknesses. Being open and honest about what you can and can’t do keeps everyone on the same page and makes you more relatable. This is where genuine relationships start.”
Transparency gives business partners and others greater confidence in the relationship—increasing both their quality and duration.
2. Demonstrate Respect
Respect doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything a potential business partner proposes in a contract. But it does mean you are willing to listen to their perspectives. It also means that when you do make an agreement, you stay true to what was agreed upon—even if there isn’t a written contract involved.
Respect even trickles down to the little, everyday things that happen in your interactions with employees and business partners. Showing up on time to meetings or giving your full attention to others who are speaking with you may seem like small details, but these are the things that people often pick up on the most, regardless of whether you are meeting in-person or digitally.
By offering respect to others and their ideas, you can ensure that they will extend the same courtesy to you, even when you don’t necessarily see eye to eye.
3. Show Empathy
A December 2020 op-ed by George Shultz, the second-longest serving Secretary of State in U.S. history, highlighted what is perhaps one of the most important elements of building trust: displaying empathy.
His account: “In 1973, when I was treasury secretary, I attended a wreath-laying ceremony at a World War II memorial in Leningrad with the Soviet foreign trade minister, Nikolai Patolichev. As we walked, Patolichev, a tough old guy, described the staggering death toll in the Battle of Leningrad. Tears streamed down his face, and his interpreter was sobbing. When we were about to leave, I said to Patolichev, ‘I, too, fought in World War II and had friends killed beside me.’ Looking out over the cemetery, I added, ‘After all, these were the soldiers who defeated Hitler.’ Facing the cemetery, I raised my best Marine salute, and Patolichev thanked me for the show of respect. Later on, to my surprise, I found that I had earned the trust of Soviet leaders as a result of this visit.”
Trust comes when you show others that you care about them—that you value them as an actual human being rather than “just” an employee or vendor. Learning more about them and asking for their input are just a few ways to demonstrate true empathy and build stronger relationships.
Rebuilding Foundations of Trust
Whether with employees or business partners, trust is something that is too often lacking in today’s society. But it shouldn’t be. There is no reason why what is said shouldn’t match up with what is done in any working relationship.
By actively working to improve trust with those you engage with, you will enjoy greater teamwork, collaboration and unity—even with those outside the organization. You will experience greater engagement and productivity and create an environment where everyone involved can feel confident that they are treated with respect and fairness.