Let’s face it: Trust is not exactly a key descriptive word for the workplace during the past few years. Take for example a recent poll that tabulated not the most trusted banks but the most hated (Bank of America was No. 1). It would be difficult to argue that distrust hasn’t replaced trust for the majority of financial institutions.
It is not only financial organizations that have suffered a loss of trust since the beginning of the 2008 global crisis. Organizations such as Enron, Bear Stearns and AIG have all dealt with fallout as the public grew to perceive them as low-trust organizations.
Building the High-Trust Organization: Strategies for Supporting Five Key Dimensions of Trust, by Pamela S. Shockley-Zalabak, Sherwyn P. Morreale, and Michael Z. Hackman, suggests that to regain success, organizations must re-establish trust. The unprecedented “trust crash” of the past two years haunts the business community and may continue to fracture relationships for years to come unless organizations act.
“Trust in organizations is not just critically important,” the authors write. “It is the main thing — the essential element of organizational success. Distrust comes at a high cost, both human and financial.”
Building the High-Trust Organization offers an organizational trust model for building trust in ways that are directly tied to excellence and measurable outcomes. The model is based on five dimensions: competence, openness and honesty, concern for employees/ stakeholders, reliability and identification.
The authors back their model with extensive research and pragmatic case studies and experiences. Organizations from around the globe and a wide variety of manufacturing, service sector, education, government and non-profits are included as part of the research.
There is also extensive background gleaned from other experts, such as Harvard University’s John Kotter, Stephen M.R. Covey, Charles Handy, Frances Hesselbein and others. This well-written book is, however, more concerned with practical results than theories.
The book is divided into three well-organized parts, making the extensive information accessible. The first part is an introduction to the trust model and the reasons why it is crucial to success. This is followed by a detailed analysis of the five dimensions of trust and finally, a more practical section on how to create trust in any organization, including a virtual one.
Each of the five dimensions of the trust model is articulately dissected according to what happens when trust is high or when distrust is present. The well-chosen examples are telling; major national and international companies are put on the table to determine how distrust led to serious consequences or where trust resulted in effectiveness and success.
The third part of the book, “Creating Trust in Your Organization,” is where the first-rate research of the authors is brought full-circle to exceptional ends. Here, the authors provide tools for trust-building efforts. The major challenges for trust, from globalization to creativity, are presented in a practical, useable format.
The book also includes assessment tools and processes to determine the trust status within an organization. A companion CD-ROM includes an organizational trust index, a 29-question assessment for measuring and managing trust within an organization.
Among the ideas touted is that trust stimulates innovation as well as risk taking. High-trust organizations are more creative and more productive, according to the authors.
The 3M company, cited as among the most innovative companies in the world, is an example of a high-trust organization. To support creativity, the current CEO George Buckley increased the R&D budget 20 percent. He also supports a company culture where innovators are given access to resources and offered protection when projects fail. Employees are trusted to do the right thing. They are encouraged to spend up to 15 percent of their time on projects of their own choosing, a practice known as “bootlegging.”
Among the company’s best-known “failures” is the Post-it Note. The 400 Post-it products sold in more than 100 countries around the world were the result of adapting materials from a failed venture.
The book concludes with a central premise on trust: “Building and rebuilding organizational trust are based on action.” Intentions must be merged into measures that directly address issues and produce results. This practical orientation to action is where this book really shines.
“We are convinced trust is the bond which supports organizations to meet challenges,” the authors state. “Trust holds organizations together and stimulates productive change. High-trust organizations embrace the future.”