Jeff is an executive coach, leadership development trainer, and former Navy SEAL. He is a weekly columnist for Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as author of the book Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty In Uncertain Situations.
Trust is the foundation for everything.
Without trust, the belief in positive intentions erodes and the potential for relationship toxicity snowballs into the (social) tumor you never wanted.
An article in FastCompany cited Edelman’s Trust Barometer, noting that 82 percent of employees don’t trust business leaders to tell the truth. Furthermore, another study, conducted by Gallup, reveals that 70 percent of employees are disengaged at work. Think trust has something to do with it? After all, if you don’t trust the people with whom you spend the majority of your day, how fulfilling can work really be?
To work optimally, people and business units within an organization must work in concert with each other, and this only happens when there’s trust and communication within the company. After all, the adage that knowledge is power is obsolete.
In today’s highly interconnected, fast-paced world where change is constant and progress isn’t, knowledge may be powerful, but sharing knowledge is the true source of power for the following reasons:
Sharing enables. By being transparent about your current work tasks, progress, and intentions, you heighten the awareness of others so that they become not only more informed about next steps but also more apt to deconflict duplicative efforts. After all, nobody likes doing the same thing twice. Well, most things (I’ll let your imagination run on that one).
Sharing builds trust. In my experience as an executive coach, the common belief held by employees is this: sharing information with others will somehow allow colleagues to get ahead of oneself in performance rankings. Without clear roles, responsibilities and decision-making space, sure, the potential for employee “bleed over” exists. But, if I know what is expected of myself, you, and each team member and we all share information that needs to be shared, then you now have the recipe for team-based problem-solving (as opposed to being individually-based).
“Knowledge may be powerful, but sharing knowledge is the true source of power.”
The lesson here is this: Nobody is smarter than everybody. Just look at how Wikipedia put Encyclopedia Brittanica out of business simply by crowdsourcing (read: sharing) information that became available to everyone with an internet connection.
Communication, then, isn’t just about the medium over which messages travel. It’s much more than that.
Communication is about the openness and transparency that facilitates a greater shared understanding, thus setting the conditions for greater productivity.
In other words, by being transparent about how you spend your time, you:
1. Build a shared awareness.
If you don’t know what matters to your team, employees, or leaders, then how much trust really exists? In other words, strong relationships are only built from communication, and if you don’t know what’s important to the people with whom you work, then what does that convey about their value to you? And if you’re not aware of them there’s only so far you can achieve things together.
Trust grows in relationships that are mutually beneficial, as does productivity.
2. Create opportunity.
For conversation, that is. Once others are aware of your time and priorities and you’re aware of theirs, opportunities for dialogue now exist around achieving those tasks. Idea generation—and therefore, solution-finding—is optimized the more insight exists.
3. Instill a culture of trust.
Trust between individuals is one thing, but building trust throughout a culture is something else entirely.
To scale for size while working productively requires that you move at the speed of trust, which is a really sexy way of saying this – the more employees trust they have the right information, the more work they’ll be able to produce because the less time they’ll waste searching and confirming from multiple sources.
How many times have you gleaned information from one person only to have its validity discounted by another? Transparency solves this because now that information is available to everyone.
Of course much like everything in an organization, new behaviors need to be established at the top so they can be role-modeled throughout the ranks. The best way to trust is to begin trusting, and the best way to build transparency is by being transparent.