Building a High Trust Organization Requires Respect

By Alan Olsen

One of the most important aspects in the success of any organization is trust. Employers have to be able to trust their employees, and at the same time, employees need to trust their employers. Additionally, clients must be able to trust their suppliers. Without trust it is very difficult for a company to achieve or maintain success. Eventually, a lack of trust can undermine a company’s goals and intentions and leave it in a position of failure, rather than success. So what are some things a business needs to focus on as it works to build a high trust organization?

Lead By Example

I discussed this topic with Joel Petersen the Chairman of Jet Blue, and he shared several ideas with me; first and foremost being the importance of respect. What does it mean to have respect in a business? Of course, employees should respect their leaders and follow their lead. However, leaders should have just as much respect for their employees. Respect is a two-way street and without proper respect going both ways, organizations will have a very difficult time building trust. In fact, it is pretty much impossible. Thus, there needs to be respect at every level of the organization. Joel said: “It’s very hard to build a high trust organization unless you are showing respect for everybody top to bottom. People watch what leaders do and if they’re not respectful – from the receptionist to the executive vice presidents – people pick up on that and they wonder ‘what is he saying behind my back when I’m not there.’”

Respect Everyone

Joel also explained that it doesn’t matter where you are in the organization you can still can show respect to everyone else. People who don’t show respect to all their teammates can sometimes build cliques or small pockets of disrespect and mistrust. “Organizations become quite political without respect. So I think if you’re in a leadership role in the organization it’s absolutely imperative. But even if you’re way down in the organization, I think people are smart and they’ll know if you’re not showing respect to teammates.” Joel also pointed out that if someone is not showing respect you simply need to pull him or her aside and let him or her know that their behavior is not acceptable.

Remember Humility

Another important quality of building a high trust organization is humility. It’s extremely important for those in leadership positions to be humble. When leaders have to always be right and they won’t admit when they are wrong or they have made a mistake it is difficult for employees to trust them. Leaders, who are humble enough to rely on others, build teams and incorporate their teammates’ strengths are more successful in building a high trust organization. Additionally, employees are typically quicker to embrace this type of leader because they trust them. “Those types of leaders tend to listen. They tend to seek others opinions. They tend to weigh things more carefully and therefore, we feel like we can rely on them.”