You don’t improve engagement by focusing on engagement. You improve engagement by focusing on what drives engagement… TRUST. Stephen Covey.

Our last article presented the need to understand the deepest craving of the human nature--appreciation--and the need to answer the worker's question, “How’d I do today?”

In order to do answer that question you’ve got to have the right measurements. However, the right measurements with the wrong motives will fail to create a fun and rewarding place to work. I believe that communicating with the right metrics is the first step to better engagement, and adding a culture of trust will multiply the speed of engagement and enjoyment. Research shows that most people want to be trusted.

Why Trust is So Important

Trust is generally either assumed and taken for granted, or severely underestimated. Usually people already know when trust is low, but we need to explore how trust works and identify steps to build trust if we want to improve company enjoyment and performance. Having to go to work every day in a low trust environment not only affects commitment and performance in our jobs, but the stress affects every other area of our lives as well. Take a serious look at the benefits of increasing trust and it’s benefits in your company. Trust changes everything!

Indicators That Trust is Lacking

Want an easy way to tell if trust is part of your company environment? Here are a few key indicators that trust is lacking: bureaucracy, redundancy, unaligned internal systems, re-work, high employee turnover, politics, and fraud. These characteristics increase personal stress, decrease the mental agility you need to confront challenges, and increase overall company risk and costs, thus slowing company growth and progress.

It’s not uncommon in the construction industry to see several project managers/estimators using 48 Excel spreadsheets that have little correlation with each other or with actual field production–and typically, 14 of those spreadsheets haven’t been opened in 2 years. Sound familiar? I’ll bet you have a friend who works for a company like that. I cannot stress enough the need for simplifying and aligning systems to communicate and improve the right, useful measurements for each of the system’s recipients.

Indicators That You’ve Got Trust

Some high trust characteristics are accessible aligned systems, intelligent conversations from engaged workers, loyal workers, better, faster and safer execution, better quality, accelerated problem solving, faster recovery, and growth from our cyclical construction markets–and as a byproduct, increased company valuations. These characteristics create enjoyable fulfilling working relationships, better engagement, and quality of life.

Trust is Made up of Two Components: Character and Competence

Management’s first step in offering trust to frontline workers is to model it in everyday actions and conversations. We must raise the level of competence by accurately measuring and communicating daily performance results. We must confront current reality before we can clarify expectations. We need to ask ourselves, “How are we doing compared to the estimate? Is the estimate correct?” We need the correct answers to these questions, and the conversations are not always pleasant, but we need to exercise humility, persistence, and commitment to simple, accurate results within every level, including frontline workers. In some instances, just being able to communicate accurate results makes the expectations fairly obvious. The usual resistance from frontline workers in low trust cultures is rooted in that lack of trust. “Why are we doing this? Is this going to be used against us?” If we can’t answer these suspicions, we will not achieve accurate measurements.

Trust Can Be Achieved

Trust CAN be learned! You CAN change behavior! It starts with taking responsibility for results, not activities or personalities. When we focus conversation on non-threatening learning from actual, correct results and commit to the time it takes to get correct, consistent results, we will begin to build trust in the information that will grow with speed. Keeping score with production measuring is fun! For example, look at the growth in fantasy football!

Another way to build trust is practicing unbiased accountability with everyone at every level, not just frontline workers. This is critical in building the character component of trust. Accountability clearly defines job duties and responsibilities and holds each other accountable for each person’s job. Unclear job duties and responsibilities have created chaos and unhealthy relationships in many companies. Often, the good, hard-working, great-hearted people who love their jobs and love to help others out end up being responsible for other people’s work until one day they’re burned out and gone.

Trust can be learned when we create a safe environment for transparency in improving results at all levels. Be sensitive to the office versus the field, us versus them in your company. Remember, we are all on the same team. Become comfortable sharing information. It’s not as risky as you may think. Involve those that will be affected by measuring results and invite their input. Don’t use the “my way or the highway” approach. The systems you create that communicate results to the frontline worker need to be simple, accurate, and without redundancy and unnecessary administration. Efforts spent to measure production and keep score will increase focus on what it is we actually build, and will create confident, open, honest communications that result in fun, enjoyment, and quality of life of the whole company. Trust changes everything!

Trust Drives Performance

Trust is a hard-edged economic driver that can be quantified, measured, and tracked in your company. There are effective tools available to measure the trust factor in your company and identify the areas needing attention, if you want to take advantage of how it can affect your bottom line. However, if the sole purpose of improving trust in your company is to increase shareholder value, your motive may become transparent. It’s easy to spot a phony.

I challenge you to make a serious commitment to improving trust in your company and watch it change your people, your community, and your legacy.

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