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Trust: Hard To Earn But Easy To Lose


If there’s one thing that ensures team success, it’s trust.
By Kate Jones


Trust is the key that unlocks the door to more innovative, agile and productive organisations.

Yet it barely rates a mention in boardrooms across Australia, reflecting an even more worrying trend – society’s growing mistrust of institutions.

Declining trust is a problem for governments, banks, the media and even non-government organisations. Research shows flagging trust means the majority of people think societal and economic systems are working against them.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, which samples more than 33,000 respondents from 28 countries, found people’s concerns centre around corruption, globalisation, immigration, an erosion of social values and the pace of innovation.

Across the four institutions of government, business, media and NGOs, business was viewed as the only one that can make a difference. Three out of four respondents agree a company can take actions to both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions.

Business leaders play an important part in rebuilding trust and it all starts in-house.

Today’s fast-paced advances mean there is a greater emphasis on explaining the impact of innovation to employees and what it means for their jobs. There is the ongoing need for businesses to pay employees fairly, constantly improve benefits and provide job training.

Being a trustworthy leader is all about establishing credibility, says business psychologist Sebastian Salicru, author of Leadership Results: How to Create Adaptive Leaders and High-performing Organisations for an Uncertain World.


“Leaders need to be fair by displaying consistency in decision-making . . . and sharing their influence and power appropriately”


“This means acting with integrity and being role models of the principles, values and behaviours they uphold,” he says.

“More specifically, building credibility entails enhancing or repairing their psychological contracts with their people by fulfilling the expectations employees have of them, building trust by communicating openly, keeping their promises, demonstrating competence and good judgment.

“They also need to be fair by displaying consistency in decision-making, providing opportunities for others to share their views, share their influence and power appropriately, and provide ongoing feedback to their teams.”

Winning a team’s trust is a marathon and relies on being respectful, welcoming feedback and admitting mistakes, Salicru advises. Losing it can be a sprint.

“Don’t assume people know what you expect from them, don’t pretend that you know everything, don’t blame others when things go wrong, don’t display favouritisms, don’t bully, abuse your power or discriminate against others, don’t avoid conflict and don’t try to be liked or seek approval from others,” he says.

Restoring strong team trust will translate to consumers, giving them confidence to do business with an organisation and recommending that organisation to others. Flowing from this are healthy customer relationships, which fast-track business growth and build sustainable brand equity.

“It manifests in increased sales, repeat business, customer loyalty and brand ambassadorship,” Salicru says.

“In turn, this affords you and the organisation brand differentiation, good reputation, and greater competitive advantage. In the longer-term, this means increased market share, sustainability and business growth.”

Maintaining trust has and always will be crucial for business leaders. Leaders can do this by working towards putting people, their employees and customers, at the centre of everything they do.



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