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5 Elements of Building a Trust Culture

5 min read

Company culture is a buzzword that has been thrown around for the last several years, but what does it really mean? Happy hours? Ping pong tables in the breakroom? Team retreats? How about happiness, clarity, and honesty? There is a reason that companies like Zoom have an internal team called the Happiness Crew, and Google believes that joy is a science - focusing on open communication and transparent core values. They know that people are what truly gives an organization its competitive advantage. That is why businesses need to dig deeper and build a trust culture that they practice daily in their operations, exchanges with clients, and interactions with employees. 

Employees want to believe in their workplace and feel like their employers believe in them in return. Take, for example, implementing stringent company policies. These "rules" are often enforced because the company doesn't trust its employees. But no one wants to be controlled. When a business micro-manages every aspect of a team member's day-to-day, they feel less valued, decreasing productivity and engagement. But how else can you expand on building a trust culture? Like personal relationships, trust takes time and effort, and can be easily broken if not handled carefully. 

1. Being Transparent

One way to start building a culture of trust is through transparency. Transparency tiptoes its way into almost every interaction a company has. From client meetings to mission statements, social media to employee reviews, team members should have a clear understanding of where they work, why they do the work they do, and who they work for. 

To build a genuinely transparent culture, it is vital to encourage honesty. It may be tempting for leaders to always paint everything with a positive spin, but if things aren't going well, the team should know. No one likes to be left in the dark. If things are going well, the team should know that too. Knowledge is power, and transparency builds trust and empowers your team to work better together. 

2. Practicing Authenticity

At GO, we say, "Do good work. With good people. For good people." We believe that people mean something and that values matter. Surrounding ourselves with good is the cornerstone of our brand and, therefore, the foundation of a solid trust culture. 

Psychologists believe that business authenticity requires a great deal of self-awareness, knowing where your strengths are (and limitations), and being open to opposing viewpoints. While authenticity can mean different things to different businesses and people, it comes down to honesty and follow-through. A company can say they have certain beliefs, but they must practice them - from hiring practices to the clients they associate with - to remain authentic in their culture. 

3. Sharing Feedback 

Psychologist Adam Grant once stated, "If knowledge is power, knowing what we don't know is wisdom." At GO, we encourage continuous feedback and want everyone on our team to feel empowered to share their opinions – good or bad. Did a team member do an awesome job on a presentation? Tell them. Could that design of been a little bit more impactful? That needs to be mentioned too. 

Having a team that is open to giving feedback is a gift. That being said, the way feedback is communicated is just as important. Thoughts should be shared constructively; otherwise, it results in people being too afraid to take risks, innovate, and come to the table with new ideas. Even if an employee's hard work receives helpful "room for improvement" suggestions, they need to know that their time and efforts are validated. This open communication builds trust between associates. 

4. Encouraging Vulnerability 

How many times have you sat in a meeting, met with a client, or talked to a teammate and had no idea what the other person was talking about? Did you say anything or nod in agreement while running to Google? It is hard sometimes to admit what we don't know. But, by pretending, people miss out on opportunities to learn and build more meaningful and trusting connections. Declaring that you need clarification isn't a weakness. It's a strength when building a solid company foundation.

There is a power in vulnerability. At GO, we own our mistakes and are open to change. We also encourage our team to be available to listen and learn, always. Building a solid company culture doesn't mean everyone has to be perfect every day. It just means our decisions aren't driven by fear of failure, but by confidence in our ability to get it right. 

5. Showing Empathy 

People are what truly give an organization its competitive advantage. However, with more flexible and distributed teams today, it's essential to get past just the team-building exercises and instead try to understand what others are feeling. When a company shows empathy towards its team and clients, it shows that they care about more than only meeting deadlines or closing the deal. 

When company leaders can put themselves in the shoes of others and consider how an employee could feel about a policy change, how a client might take a price increase, or a new hire's comfort level when asking for help, it builds a culture of trust.

Working with the Human

At GO, trust is embedded in everything we do. That starts with how and who we employ. We don't hire the job. We hire the human. We are a team, and our team believes in each other and what we do. One of our mantras is, "Be the kind of company your mom would want you to keep." This mentality trickles down into our work, resulting in a culture that our moms would appreciate, and our team and clients can trust.