The issue of trust in the corporate world but also in life is of the utmost importance. It is the basis of teams coming together, leaders being effective, close relationships being formed. It must be present for a person to be mentored and developed as a Leader or key employee. In fact according to a 2017 Global Workforce Study done by Willis Towers Watson is was found that 79% of highly engaged employees had trust and confidence in their leaders.
There are many ways that the word trust and it’s meaning arise in our everyday conversations. Just a few examples: Do you trust me? Do you have my back? Can I trust you? In God we trust. Do they have a trusting relationship? So, if one focuses on this you start to realize how pervasive it is. If we think of it though, in the work area, we know that Teams cannot be productive or cohesive without trust. If in a small employer environment the owner cannot be trusted by the employees it will be very difficult trying to move that organization forward.
In this piece, I would like to talk about a very key element of building trust and that is non-verbal communication. You see sometimes people get hung up on saying the right thing or sounding the right way and they believe this is what develops trust. I would point out that many people form their impression of a Leader by what is not said, non-verbal cues and communication. If a Leader who is trying to influence a team is distant with co-workers and never engages at the personal or heart level with anyone, this person will not build up any loyal followers. If a Leader rolls their eyes or appears to be very distracted when others are speaking, this will erode trust very quickly. Someone who is looking at their phone, all the while telling the team members how important they are, might have trust issues. These are but a few examples of the value of non-verbal communication in fostering trust with those you work with.
In my first formal leadership role in the corporate world after leaving the United States Army, I had a particular manager that needed a lot of dialogue and help. This was back in the day when we actually had to sign payroll and accounts payable checks manually, can you believe that? A lot of times when she was in my office I would be signing checks as we were talking and discussing areas of improvement in her department. Eventually, we ended up letting her go for performance issues. In her exit interview with our Human Resources department, she indicated that every time I spoke to her I was distracted by signing checks and didn’t really hear what she was saying! Wow, that was a major wake up call for me as a young manager/leader that I needed to be focused on and with the person in front of me. It wasn’t what I said, it was clearly a non-verbal message I was sending and it was received. I wish I could say that was the only lesson I learned as a young manager, but there were much more. However, the lesson here is, as important as what you say, its what is not said or done (non-verbal cues/channels) that communicates volumes and can either build or erode trust.