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4 trust-building actions all C-suite leaders need to demonstrate

Although chief executives today recognise the importance of building trust for business success, they admit that building and maintaining trust is no easy task. Competing priorities, lack of time, and lack of alignment within senior leadership threaten the effectiveness of trust-building efforts.

So what is the C-suite doing to build trust? The 2020 Global Pulse Survey on Trust by YPO surveyed 2,960 chief executives across 115 countries to find that building/maintaining trust with stakeholders is of 'high priority' in Europe (35%), Asia (34%), and Middle East/North Africa (33%), while the lowest was cited in United States at 23%.


Activating employee trust

Trust starts at home. When organisations build trust with employees, the effect ripples outward as employees become ambassadors for their organisations.

What actions are chief executives taking to build employee trust within their organisations? (themes from open ended responses below):

  • Communicate regularly - 42%
  • Be transparent/honest - 35%
  • Gather feedback/listen - 22%
  • Follow through on commitments: words match actions - 21%
  • Personally engage with/get to know employees as people - 18%
  • Align trust with company values and culture - 15%
  • Set a good example/have good character - 15%
  • Invest in employee growth/compensation/benefits - 7%
  • Have a clear mission/objectives/purpose - 7%
  • Be fair/treat everyone equally - 3%
However, success in building trust does not easy. Just over two in five chief executives (41%) admit that 'competing priorities' are the number one obstacle to building trust. In the same light, the second big obstacle is 'lack of time to devote to effectively building trust', cited by 34% of respondents.

Other challenges that the C-suite is facing in their journey towards building trust include: lack of alignment among senior leadership (24%), company culture (22%), lack of knowledge on how to effectively build trust (22%), operational structure (21), and their specific industry environment (20%).

Only 8% said that lack of financial resources was proving to be an obstacle in their trust journey.

Four trust-building imperatives for chief executives

1. Establish and communicate your organisation’s greater purpose and societal contributions

Employees expect purpose and meaning from their work, and organisations that meet these expectations earn high employee trust. Provide employees with opportunities to recognise the ways in which their job has a meaningful societal impact.

2. Demonstrate authenticity and transparency as a leader

Show commitment from the top. Share your personal story and values with your employees. This will create deeper, more trusting relationships within – and beyond − the organisation.

3. Make trust an important foundation for your business and brand

Create and implement a plan for building a strong culture of trust across your organisation. Understand that cultivating a culture of trust is a group effort, and chief executives who define a plan report greater effectiveness of their trust-building efforts. Be sure the plan includes metrics for measuring trust and progress toward greater trust.

4. Seek and engage with resources to inform your thinking and actions on trust

Learning from not only your own experience but also the experiences of others speeds individual learning and effectiveness.

ALSO READ: 5 ways for people managers to build trust

All images / YPO

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