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.


“Focus on the competition to diminish the time dedicated to internal politics.” -James Kerr


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.


“Eliminating spin improves transparency and trust.” -James Kerr


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.


“Play the work with no innuendo – just honesty. Trust will follow.” -James Kerr


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.


“Ensure everyone knows what success is and what their role is in achieving it.” -James Kerr


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.


“Expect the best and people will rise to the occasion.” -James Kerr


Creating a Winning Culture

The Challenge of Trusting Leadership

Photo courtesy of istockphoto/aleishaknight

What’s really in the way of your success in leading others?

When others see you lead, do they see the real you?

Are you living your passion and living it with authenticity?

Do you lead transparently?

Are you as good as your word?

Scott Weiss is President and CEO of Speakeasy, Inc., a global communication consulting firm.  His book Dare: Accepting the Challenge of Trusting Leadership will be released April 2, 2013.  Dare is a challenge to leaders everywhere to be authentic, to understand your style, and to embrace your true inner self.

Scott, you start the book with a rather negative view of today’s leaders.  Chapter 1 is titled “A Crisis of Trust.”  You say that everywhere you look, you see signs of a systemic leadership problem.  You cite studies showing our trust in institutions has been declining for forty years.  You even label the Gen X and Gen Y youth as “Jaded Generations.”  How did we get here and how is this impacting today’s up-and-coming leaders?

I don’t know how trust got such a bad reputation, but we’re here, and we have to do something about it. There’s no one reason why, but I think it’s fair to say that nobody has stood up and said, “ENOUGH!” It’s become too easy to look the other way, to say “good enough.”LettersDustJacket.indd

The crisis of trust in this country is especially important to today’s youth. There was a time in my life when I could trust teachers, coaches, clergymen and executives. I experienced it firsthand. The younger generations have no foundation of trust from which to build, learn or be inspired, so their default position is a lack of trust. That’s a huge problem.

What led you to write Dare?

I’ve been repeatedly inspired by executives who take the dare in their own way. I have witnessed miraculous results from leaders who dare to adopt honesty as a business strategy. Seeing it work motivated me to want to broaden the reach of the message and to do the same for others.

In the book I chronicle a situation where a senior executive was talking about an issue with compensation at his company’s annual meeting. Rather than search for some deceptive way to deliver the news, he admitted to making a mistake and he vowed to make it right. That seven-minute conversation literally changed the course of the company forever. Why? Because he allowed himself to be vulnerable, transparent and empathetic. These are core principles we teach to every person who attends a Speakeasy course, which he did, and they’re at the heart of authenticity.

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader

Photo by Michael W. May on flickr.

Leading With Others in Mind

At first blush, you may think a servant leader literally takes on the role of a servant. Taken to an extreme, that definition would look like this:

As you pull into work, the leader meets you at your car, opens your door, and welcomes you to the office.  Maybe the leader gets you coffee mid-morning and drops by in the afternoon to see if you need anything.  When you need assistance on a project, or maybe just someone to do the grunt work, there your leader is, waiting for you.

No, that isn’t servant leadership.


“Servant leaders lead with others in mind.” -Skip Prichard


Servant leadership is a blend and balance between leader and servant. You don’t lose leadership qualities when becoming a servant leader.

A servant leader is one who:

1. Values diverse opinions.

A servant leader values everyone’s contributions and regularly seeks out opinions.  If you must parrot back the leader’s opinion, you are not in a servant-led organization.


“Servant leaders regularly seek out opinions.” -Skip Prichard


2. Cultivates a culture of trust.

People don’t meet at the water cooler to gossip. Pocket vetoes are rejected.


“Servant leaders cultivate a culture of trust.” -Skip Prichard


3.  Develops other leaders.


The replication factor is so important.  It means teaching others to lead, providing opportunities for growth and demonstrating by example.  That means the leader is not always leading, but instead giving up power and deputizing others to lead.


“Servant leaders give up power and deputize others to lead.” -Skip Prichard


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4.  Helps people with life issues (not just work issues).

It’s important to offer opportunities for personal development beyond the job.  Let’s say you run a company program to lose weight, or lower personal debt, or a class on etiquette.  None of these may help an immediate corporate need, but each may be important.