Building Trust – The Elusive Keystone of Engagement

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Research tells us the relationship between us and those to whom we look for leadership is a core component of engagement.

Most of us would agree that trust is foundational to any relationship. Yet, “building trust” can be elusive – most say they want it but aren’t sure how to get it.

This is why I was so excited when I heard Paul Zak speak about his book Trust Factor and the related Harvard Business Review article The Neuroscience of Trust in which he lays out 8 concrete strategies for building trust.

One of the 8 strategies is “Show Vulnerability.” Zak shares that being vulnerable and asking for help stimulates the production of oxytocin, which increases both trust and cooperation. When leaders ask for help, employees are more likely to feel that their opinion is valued, which in turn leads to more engaged employees.

I looked to literature to make this concept even more concrete. I am a huge fan of the author Louise Penny and her character Armand Gamache. Gamache has a simple formula for building trust that he imparts to those who look to him for leadership. It involves the consistent use of 4 statements:

I need help

I’m sorry

I was wrong

I don’t know

To use one of my colleague’s favorite observations, this approach is: said easy, done hard. I know from experience that it begins with leaders modeling the behavior. From there, how might you intentionally integrate these statements into your organization’s culture?