How to Survive a Low Trust Culture – Part 2 – LogiSYM April 2019

It is quite common for high integrity leaders to be leading in an organisation that doesn’t value people in the same way they do.  This can be highly frustrating and disappointing for leaders who have been with the company for a long time.

But leaders who complain about the culture become part of the problem rather than the solution.  This makes it hard for the organisation to improve employee engagement, even if they desire change.

In the last issue, we went through four elements to build trust when you are a leader in a low trust organisation.

The first four elements were:

  1. Know yourself and be congruent
  2. Fostering candour
  3. Asking great questions and being an active listener
  4. Building in accountability

While these are great first steps, you can’t build trust within your own team and extend that across that throughout the organisation on these four elements alone.

Here are the next four that ensure you truly lead with trust and work to embed it with those around you.

5. Connect Individually with Team Members

You can’t build trust with people if you’re unable to connect with them.   Each individual differs in their propensity to trust others.  Sophisticated managers understand not everyone is the same.  Take the time to understand each team member in terms of their dreams, fears, values, challenges and goals.  Regularly ask questions about their family or interests that show you care and see them as more than just a productivity tool.  After establishing common ground, align each individual’s self-interests to the broader goal of the organisation and team.

This might seem like a lot of work.  And it can be.  But it is less work, long-term.  When you put the interests and well-being of your employees above your own, you become a trusted leader.  One who is followed in a heartbeat, during bad and good times.

6. Be A Great Networker

Successful high trust leaders stand out because they actively build a network of peers and other professionals. Think of a high-trust leader that you worked with and they almost always, know everyone!  They are always on the lookout for the best and brightest.  Their ability to connect people based on interests, values and common needs enable them to build up their team’s capabilities and solve tricky challenges.

High trust leaders realise that real power comes not from knowledge, but from the wisdom leveraged in networks.  They’re experts at building trust up, down and sideways.  Not only that they influence others to work to their highest point of contribution.  As opposed to low trust leaders who shut people down causing them to withdraw and refrain from contributing.

As Dave Logan says in the book Tribal Leadership, “You are only as smart and capable as your tribe. By upgrading your tribe, you multiply the results of your efforts.”

Create a large network of relationships through introducing like-minded people to each other, proving that you are there to be of service.  Unlike low trust leaders, who avoid introducing people to each other, as they like to have control over the people they know.

7. Remove Roadblocks

Demonstrate that you care about your employees, by removing roadblocks and bottlenecks, so people can do their best work in service of a shared goal.    This even includes removing toxic team members that give license for others to misbehave or perform poorly.  Remember, a culture is created through what behaviours are tolerated.  If you allow bullying or poor standards, you will be no better than the low trust culture you want to fight against.

In companies, people get so used to roadblocks from poor decision making, communication or planning that they learn to work around issues.  This greatly reduces productivity and even morale.  Provide your team with the right resources, tools, decisions, and support.

Regularly ask: “What information do you need from me or other leaders to make your job easier?”  Sometimes you might be the blocker, holding things up.  While another team is gumming up the works by not delivering on key data.  Get out there and talk to the team leader and sort out the issue.

8. Champion Trust

To improve the trust levels within your organisation, all starts with trust being on the CEO’s agenda or through a senior executive who can champion measuring trust within their own division.

If you’re an executive, you have a powerful opportunity to construct an enterprise that has employees who are more productive, enjoy their work and generate happy customers.  But it takes time and relentless commitment on your part.

For example, executives that I have worked with to successfully build internal consensus for the requirement to build trust, have spent time strategically trying to get the CEO on board.  This has included sending them some of my articles, discussing findings from my talks or showing them my insights paper (see download below).  Often, the best way to convince the CEO or executive team is through a compelling speaker at your annual offsite or at an executive roundtable.

For those of you who aren’t able to influence the executive office, you can try to work with other leaders to bring in a speaker to disrupt thinking.  This can mean not even using the word trust, as this can scare a lot of people off.

Looking for those in your workplace who feel the same way you do is important.  A study found that those who were frustrated with the systems and processes within their company were motivated to come up with fresh solutions.  The only thing is that these types of people appear grumpy.  But if you take the time to really listen to them they will become your allies.  Just make sure that they are committed to the organisation, if they are unhappy and non-committal to improving the organisation they won’t get behind any change.


Commit to Building Trust All the Time

Trust is dynamic.  If you are not proactively building trust, it is declining.   Regularly review and reflect on your behaviours to ensure you are modelling how you want your people to act.

Being a trust champion isn’t for the faint-hearted in a toxic environment.   It requires commitment and courage because often, some leaders and employees, don’t want to talk about it and will sabotage any efforts to change the status quo.

Building trust in spite of the system involves refusing to become part of the status quo.   The truth is you can’t make other people change.  It means realising as a leader that you have the power to control your immediate environment, your thoughts, your interactions and your behaviours.  No one can take that away from you.   The good news is that your team members want you to shine a light and lead the way.  They want a hero leader who acts with integrity, can create a compelling vision for the future and provide the support to help them get there.

This in turn, requires trusting your team members to be the best they can be.  Respecting and admiring their gifts and talents enables you to leverage the collective intelligence of your team for the greater good of the whole.  Getting this right sends a powerful message to low trust leaders who prefer to work in silos and pit individuals against each other.

It won’t be long before you’ll find people knocking at your door wanting to join you.  But it takes courage, commitment and a belief that we are all worthy and valuable and you can bring about change for the better.  And isn’t that what leadership is all about?  Shining a light on an exciting future and having the courage to bring everyone on board, no matter what obstacles are in your path.

According to a Helliwell Huang study, a 10% increase in trusting a company’s leaders results in life satisfaction that’s equivalent to a 36% increase in pay.

Leadership is a gift.  It not only improves work performance but improve people’s health and well-being.   We all want to be part of team that is going somewhere, kicking goals and feel connected, valued and appreciated.  As a leader you have the power to create a thriving work environment that will not only improve business results but change your people’s lives for the better.

Which way are you going to lead – for the people or against the people?

Marie-Claire Ross
Chief Corporate Catalyst at Trustologie

Marie-Claire Ross is the chief corporate catalyst at Trustologie.  She is a workplace sociologist, author and consultant focused on helping leaders put the right processes in place to empower employees to speak up about issues, challenge each other and share information.  If you want to find out more about building trust, download the free

insights paper ‘Building Trust – How High-Trust Companies Deliver Faster Results, Increase Profitability and Loyalty’ at[vc_single_image image=”8925″ qode_css_animation=””][vc_single_image image=”10049″ img_size=”medium” qode_css_animation=””][ult_layout layout_style=”4″ list_style=”6″ s_image=”0″ s_excerpt=”0″ s_categories=”0″ s_metas_o=”0″ s_metas_t=”0″ quick_view=”0″ taxonomies=”post_tag” price_font_weight=”” atcb_font_weight=”” title_font_weight=”normal” title_font_style=”normal” title_text_transform=”capitalize” metas_font_weight=”” excerpt_font_weight=”” filter_font_weight=”” tab_font_weight=”” pagination_font_weight=”” d_i_filter=”208″ title_font=”Lato” title_font_size=”12pt”]