On the clock

by Tiffany Paczek
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MARIE-CLAIRE ROSS reports on how to build trust quickly in the workplace when time is limited.

When talking to business leaders about building trust, one of the questions I get asked is: how do you build trust quickly when it takes time and energy?

And it’s a valid point. After all, most managers struggle with day-to-day demands and find little time to work on their goals, let alone build trust with their team members.

Yet, when you scratch under the surface, you will find that most leaders are constantly fixing people and customer issues. The irony is that underpinning both these challenges are trust problems. Trust is at the heart of every relationship, every interaction and every transaction. Build trust quickly and it improves business results (and reduces stress levels).

All managers need to do is create an environment where trust thrives and all the frustrating daily fire-fighting would suddenly be minimised.


In today’s fast-paced business world, we often don’t have the luxury of time to decide whether someone is trustworthy or needs more time to trust us. Teams must be put together quickly, decisions made and deadlines met.

Even when we do have time, we are so caught up in our own deadlines, that we miss out on important opportunities to connect with others and cultivate trust leadership. We overlook that building trust with others would actually save us time, not take time away from us.

What I have found is that most leaders do little to increase trust, not because they don’t want to, but because they aren’t sure where to even start. If they do attempt to fix it, they waste time and headspace focusing on the wrong trust elements.

So how can a busy leader more efficiently build trust?


High-trust organisations have leaders that all understand the elements of organisational trust and how it works in their organisation, in order to sustainably embed trustworthiness into their organisational culture and behaviours – not in just a couple of places or subsystems.

In a perfect world, trust needs to be championed by the chief executive officer, board and executives, so that it is inserted into the very fabric of their organisation’s architecture.

For many who work in companies perceived as untrustworthy, getting senior members to build trust is impossible. To improve results, building trust starts at the top and that means leaders being the way they would wish other company leaders would be.

According to neuroscience, to get people’s trust quickly it’s necessary, to focus on three factors that the brain requires to perform well at work.

1. Creating psychological safety

In the workplace, employees need to see and feel evidence that their workplaces are safe and that their fellow co-workers are looking out for them. More importantly, workers need to trust that their boss and colleagues really care.

What people need to thrive in their jobs is psychological safety. They want to work in an organisation where they can be themselves, speak up about any concerns and feel that if they make a mistake they won’t be criticised. They should also know that they can work the extra mile and their effort will be noticed.

This feeling of psychological safety enables employees to become more emotionally invested in the organisation in which they work. It means they’re more likely to work harder and be engaged in their work.

According to research by Google, psychological safety is by far the most important out of all the dynamics measured in a high-performance team.

To build trust quickly, focus on creating a safe space for people to bring their best selves to work.

Do this by acknowledging every team member through eye contact in meetings, inviting each person to speak, practising deep listening, expressing gratitude and rewarding excellence. While on a one-to-one basis, empower individuals with questions such as: ‘What would you do if you had my role?’ or ‘I need help with this. I’ve heard you’re the person who knows what to do. What would you suggest?’

2. Focusing on impact

When people have clear direction, understand the meaning of their role and how it contributes to the success of the organisation, they feel as though their contribution matters. Their work inspires them to get out of bed each morning excited to go to work.

Essentially, people love their job if it matters whether they show up to work or not, because their work makes a difference.

When employees understand their overall role in the business 91 percent will work towards that success, but the number plummets to 23 percent if they don’t (according to research by US communication strategy expert, Bill Quirke).

As a leader, it’s vital that you reduce uncertainty by letting people know where the company is headed and why. When employees feel that communication is ambiguous or they don’t understand what is expected of them, they fall into fear and low trust. To improve this, clearly communicate accountability structures, set clear expectations and align employees to a mutual purpose. Ensure that you align the self- interest of individuals to the greater impact of the organisation. Once people are clear about what is expected of them, make sure that you let them know how their performance is positively impacting those around them.

Where possible, encourage employees to meet with others in the company or customers who actually benefit from their work. When employees discover how their work positively impacts others, it becomes highly motivating.

This also strengthens people’s sense of belongingness and connection. According to a study from Adam Grant at Wharton School, it even improves productivity by six percent.

3. Reinforce connection

We are biologically wired to want to be with other people. Having a sense of connection to those around us improves our well-being. Yet we often receive conflicting messages at work that we need to focus on tasks and not waste time making friends.

Neuroscience experiments show that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves. Those that have high trust levels at work have more meaningful relationships and feel both secure in and loyal to their group. They also know they have support when they need it.

Furthermore, we trust people who are similar to ourselves. You can unite people, no matter how different they are, by aligning them to the company purpose or a really compelling goal.

Other ways to bring people together are by introducing employees to colleagues in other departments, talking about what makes your company great and how the group achieves more than what an individual can achieve on their own.

Give teams time to socialise and talk about things that are non-task related. Sponsor lunches, activities and after-work parties.


Ultimately, you cultivate trust by ensuring people feel valued for who they are, understand how their work positively impacts those around them and through providing the right people and resources to see it through.

By practising these behaviours, you will find that you no longer have to be in fire- fighting mode. Instead, employees become more accountable, decision-making becomes faster and there is better collaboration between departments or teams.

Then, all you need to do is step back, get out of the way and watch the magic unfold, while you start hitting all those goals that got lost in the chaos. ●

Marie-Claire Ross is the founder and chief corporate catalyst at Trustologie. She is a workplace sociologist, author and consultant focused on helping leaders create high-trust work environments. If you want to find out how well your organisation or team excels at trust, try a complimentary assessment at www.trustologie.com.au/trust-capital-score.

This article also appears in the August/September issue of Facility Management magazine.

Image: 123RF’s ammentorp © 123RF.com

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