In case there is any doubt, a culture of trust is vital to the work that we do as change practitioners. You may be able to drive short-term, looking-over-the-shoulder compliance through authoritarian, top-down dictate; but deeply embedded change requires trust.

In too many organizations, the trust-meter readings are dangerously low. According to Marissa Levin (8 Ways to Build a Culture of Trust Based on Harvard’s Neuroscience Research, Inc.), a global study of CEO’s conducted by PWC in 2016 reported that 50% believe that the lack of trust to be a major threat to their organization’s growth.

In the same article, the author cites other research regarding the impact of trust at work including:

  • 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy
  • 50% more productivity
  • 76% higher employee engagement
  • 29% more satisfied
  • 40% less burnout

So how do you raise the trust-meter?

Neuroscience has shown that trust resides in the pre-frontal cortex…the same location as empathy. Building empathy strengthens relationships, and strengthened relationships strengthen trust. Empathy increases as the level of oxytocin increases.

Levin cites 8 specific cultural shifts to achieve such an increase in oxytocin, and build trust. (A “Well Done” for each of these that already exist in your organization!)

  • Recognize excellence
  • Induce “challenge stress”
  • Empower employees to choose work patterns and habits
  • Give employees a voice in their own job design
  • Communicate often
  • Intentionally build relationships
  • Facilitate whole-person growth
  • Show vulnerability

As change practitioners we may not be in a position to bring all of these into play. But if not, we are in a position to engage in some directly, and to encourage leaders to consider the others as they commit to moving their change initiatives forward.

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