5 Ways to Increase Trust in the Workplace

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask James M. Kerr a few questions about culture, trust and engagement.  Jim is a Partner at BlumShapiro Consulting. He is a business strategist and organizational behaviorist.  His latest book is The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change.

Increasing Trust


You cite studies showing that trust in business is at an all time low.  What do you do to reverse that and increase trust?

It’s really up to the senior management team to set the tone and do what is necessary to build a high trust work environment.  Some of the ideas that I discuss in The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change to reverse the trend include:


1.  Place Focus on the Outside

The competition lives outside the four walls of the organization.  In-fighting just wastes time and energy and can contribute to distrust.  Placing focus on the competition allows a firm to put that energy to good use and diminishes the time that staff dedicates to internal politics and positioning.



2.  Make It a “No Spin” Zone

Management must set an expectation that all of the business dealings of an enterprise are done with the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in mind.  Eliminating “spin” improves transparency and enhances trust.



3.  Don’t Play Games

If you play games and pit one group against another, you’re encouraging others to follow suit.  Play the work setting straight-up, with no innuendo – just honesty.  Trust will follow.



4.  Do Your Job

It’s our job to ensure that everyone knows what success is and what their role is in achieving it.  Once that is established, attention must shift to making sure everyone “does their job.”  This focus contributes to establish a high trust work environment.



5.  Do Your Best

Expect the best and people will rise to the occasion.  As they do, confidence will rise accordingly.  The need to play games and be deceitful will lessen and trust will fill the void left behind.



Creating a Winning Culture

What tips do you have for creating a winning culture?

While there is certainly no formula for creating a winning culture, there are several facets that can contribute to building a powerhouse work environment, including:

  • Crafting a compelling vision
  • Building a high trust work setting
  • Engaging staff in the transformation
  • Building and using a strategic plan

What do you recommend managers do to establish a compelling vision?

Visions must be vivid, engaging and specific enough that staff can imagine themselves working in such an organization.  Thus, a vision statement cannot suffice.  It’s just not able to be detailed enough to be captivating or distinctive.

Instead, when working with our clients on vision and strategy, we craft a “vision story” that captures people’s attention and gets them to believe in something bigger than themselves.  When we do, we have a compelling vision that sets the stage for true business transformation.


Engaging the Organization


You are often on the front lines of organizational change.  How do you engage people at all levels in the organization?  What tips do you give to those who are struggling or resisting the needed changes?  

The job of setting direction and managing change is on us.  Here are some ideas that we have used with our clients for overcoming resistance and engaging staff in the change process:

Decide to Engage

Put staff engagement on the agenda.  Create a program aimed at winning people over.  Generate some excitement.  Help people see themselves in your future vision for the enterprise.  It will motivate them to help make change happen.

Promote the New Culture

Sell your ideas for change to your people.  Let them see what’s in it for them.  Help them develop the skills and attitudes needed to make their dreams come true, too.

Inspire Early Adopters

There will be people that will want to make the changes that you articulate.  Enable them to get things done.  Once they’re ready, set them loose and watch what transpires – improvements will come quick.

Reward New Behaviors

Tie measurements and rewards to the change efforts.  Sometimes the pursuit of the reward is enough to motivate people to perform at their highest capabilities.


What company is doing a good job setting the strategic direction and engaging its employees and customers?

I think Tony Hsieh at Zappos does a tremendous job with strategy and engagement.  Zappos’ annually published Culture Book is a great example of the importance that has been placed on employee buy-in to the corporate philosophy.  It is exclusively fashioned and produced by staff members.  The book contains a variety of contributions from personnel demonstrating Zappos’ cultural norms and values.

What are you reading?

I always have a few books going.  I really am enjoying Think Like a Freak, while I don’t agree with most of their “findings,” it provokes me to identify what I do believe about the topics that they cover.




The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change







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