Creating a High-Trust Culture for High Performance

 

How to Increase Trust

 

Why is culture so difficult to change?

Why are so many employees disengaged?

What should a leader do when she arrives at a company that is struggling?

 

The founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies recently wrote a book, Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies to answer these and other questions. Paul J. Zak, PhD, is also a professor at Claremont Graduate University. He recently answered some of my questions about his extensive research into trust. His book is fascinating and contributes to the body of work on trust and organizational culture.

 

Survey of 200,000 employees: 71% of companies have mediocre to poor cultures.

 

Spot the Signs of a Low-Trust Culture

In one part of the book, you tell a story of walking into an office full of cobwebs, old furniture, and a struggling culture. What are some of the signs of a low-trust culture?

Distrust drains employees’ energy, so people move slow, think slow, and lack a passion for their jobs.  Organizations with low trust also have lower profits, so offices often look out-of-date, even while new employees show up as turnover tends to be high.  We have also shown that people take more sick days when they work at low-trust companies, so one sees empty desks.  All these factors are signs of a low-trust syndrome and a downward cycle of productivity, innovation, and profits.

 

“High-trust companies invest in employee health and productivity.” –Paul J. Zak

 

Why Healthy Cultures are Based on Trust

trust factorWhy is a healthy culture based on trust so vitally important to its success?

Companies are, first and foremost, people. As social creatures, we naturally form teams to accomplish goals together.  Extensive research shows that teams are more effective when they have a clear objective and when team members are trustworthy. Trust reduces the frictions that can arise in teams so getting things done takes less effort and as a result more and better work is done.  By measuring brain activity while people work, we’ve shown that people are more relaxed when they trust their colleagues. They innovate more and shed the stress from work faster than those in low-trust companies.  Creating a culture of trust provides powerful leverage on performance because it harnesses what our brains are designed to do: cooperate with others in teams.  And the neuroscience I’ve done shows how to create a culture of trust in a system so it has the maximum effect on brain and behavior.

 

Workers in high trust organizations are paid an average of $6,450 more.

 

I love the biological explanation of the Golden Rule. Explain the connection between oxytocin and trust.

Do Your Customers Get a Standing Ovation?

This is a guest post by Chip R. Bell. Chip is a keynote speaker and author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.

Give Your Customers a Standing Ovation

I smile every time I think of one of my favorite clients from a number of years ago. What made it fun was a visionary, high energy CEO. The company’s sales came through a retail catalog mailed to customers who then placed orders largely via a call center. It was also a time the company elevated its emphasis on their customers’ experiences, not just the merchandise their customers purchased.

One component of the “voice of the customer” initiative was to hold a focus group session with a group of customers who were chosen because they had recently bought and/or returned merchandise. The first focus group was attended by all of senior leadership, including the CEO. At the end of the session customers were given a gift, and while they got a tour of the large distribution facility, the executives who watched the focus group worked on ways to translate insights gained into actions or, in some cases, a wakeup call to get more customer intelligence.

 

“Neglect is more dangerous than strife; apathy costlier than error.” -Chip Bell

 

The highlight of the focus group session was inviting the customers at the end of their tour to have lunch in the employee cafeteria. Prior to their arrival, word was quickly passed that a group of customers were en route to the cafeteria. As they entered the large cafeteria, the entire room erupted into a lengthy standing ovation. It was powerful and affirming!  And, in the words of one employee in the room, “This makes my challenging work worth it.”

In the following weeks, my conversations with the CEO revealed a fascinating discovery.  The standing ovation became a metaphor for the sprit conveyed by the call center employees. Instead of, “Smile more on the phone,” or “Listen more to your customers,” it became, “Give your customers a standing ovation experience.”  It was code for unmistakable valuing and obvious affirmation.

 

“Great relationships are fueled by affirmation.” -Chip Bell

 

The Power of Appreciation