Trust is a magic five-letter word that many of us undervalue and underestimate, yet it is at the core of everything we do as leaders and communication professionals.
As those focused on internal communication that drive business results, trust helps us recruit and retain. Trust drives results. Trust reduces resistance. And trust enhances the reputation of our organizations, our leaders, our people, and our products.
Yet, we seem to be in the era of distrust today. Surrounded by misinformation and disinformation, when social media also lays bare the disconnects between actions and words, and when public discourse, especially when it comes to inequities, force us to reflect on our own biases, systems, myths and truths, it gets a little uncomfortable.
It’s no surprise that the Edelman Trust Barometer (Edelman , 2023) identified, “Navigating a Polarized World,” as its core theme this past year. The report shared four forces that lead to polarization:
- Economic Anxieties driven by a collapse in economic optimism
- Institutional Imbalance when business is now the sole institution seen as competent and ethical
- Mass-Class Divide where people in the top quartile live in a different reality than those in the bottom, and
- The Battle for Truth in a world where social media and media in general take many of us into echo chambers where we hear a narrative that serves each of us differently
It may sound a little depressing, but the fact that business is the only trusted institution compared to NGOs, Government and Media, means there are opportunities for leadership and communication that have the potential to drive social change.
In fact, from an internal communication perspective, behind scientists, my coworkers, my CEO, my neighbors and people in my local community are the most trusted. This gives us a unique opportunity to allow people to lead becoming the allies, advocates, ambassadors and influencers we need to spread our messages from the inside out.
Yet, what is the risk if trust does not exist inside organizations? What if employees do not have inclusive cultures where they feel they truly belong? If we’re unraveling on the inside, we’re definitely not taking our supportive and positive messages to our customers, friends, families and neighbors.
As we wrote our soon-to-be-released book, Building a Culture of Inclusivity: Effective Internal Communication for Diversity, Equity & Belonging, we dedicated an entire chapter to discuss trust. In it, we highlighted The Trust Worthiness Equation, developed by Trusted Advisor Consultants David Maister, Charles H Green and Robert M Galford (Trusted Advisor, 2022). It consists of four elements:
The trio believes that:
Trustworthiness = credibility + reliability + intimacy/self-orientation
- Credibility is about the words we speak
- Reliability is about actions and how much people can depend on you
- Intimacy is about how safe people feel sharing information with you
- Self-Orientation is your motives and how you focus on others rather than yourself
As we describe the trust equation, do you see the connections to communication and how we advise leaders? Are the leaders you support trustworthy? Are you trustworthy? Are all of you seen as honest, dependable, considerate, understanding, supportive and caring?
As communication professionals, we need to advise and guide leaders to be more accessible, transparent and open with their communication. You can help when you listen, learn and lean in to close the trust gap.
Listen – Help leaders listen by providing opportunities and capturing employee sentiment. We create channels for employees to voice opinions including town halls, suggestion/question boxes and small-group chats AND we create trusting relationships to understand what is really being said around the watercoolers and rumor mills.
Learn – We ask questions to understand how groups are feeling before and after events and programs in a continuous improvement cycle. We are not afraid to measure results and report back on progress, good or bad.
Lean in – We lean in to difficult conversations with leaders and colleagues to help them improve. Being a trusted advisor is your biggest opportunity to provide influence and impact.
We believe internal communication is an integral enabler of business success.
During our upcoming webinar, we will share several internal communication trust pitfalls we should avoid if we want to build a psychologically trusted, safe environment through effective communication.
Together we can help our leaders and organizations build inclusive cultures where everyone belongs.
We hope you will join us for a preview of our upcoming book. Be sure to pre-order it through Kogan Page, Amazon or anywhere you purchase books online.
Edelman . (2023). 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report. New York: Edelman.
Trusted Advisor. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from The Trusted Advisor: https://trustedadvisor.com/why-trust-matters/understanding-trust/understanding-the-trust-equation
About the authors
Priya Bates, ABC, MC, SCMP, IABC Fellow
Priya Bates is an award-winning professional communicator with a passion for driving strong performance from the inside out. As President and owner of Inner Strength Communication, Priya builds strategic internal communication, engagement, branding and transformational change plans that enable, engage and empower employees to deliver business results. Her clients include organizations and leaders across technology, retail, financial, healthcare, mining and manufacturing sectors looking to build strategic internal communication expertise.
Priya is also a co-founder for A Leader Like Me, an empowering community driving global diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging through communication, conversation, courage and confidence. Her upcoming book on Building a culture of inclusivity: Effective internal communication for diversity, equity and inclusion will be released in June 2023 and available for pre-order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indigo.
Priya is an Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) and was proud to become one of the first Certified Strategic Communication Management Professionals (SCMP) in the world. In 2010, she received the Master Communicator (MC) designation, the highest honour bestowed upon a communication professional from IABC Canada. In 2016, she was recognized as an IABC Fellow, a global lifetime achievement award for her contribution to the profession. Priya is also a passionate volunteer with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), and is proud to have led the organization’s successful global rebranding effort.
Advita is a seasoned expert in the field of internal communication and employee experience.As the founder of CommsRebel, she’s helped numerous organisations cultivate inclusive cultures where employees can thrive. With more than two decades worth of experience, Advita is committed to helping organisations create meaningful connections with their employees through effective communication strategies.
In addition to her work with CommsRebel, Advita is a co-founder of A Leader Like Me, a global membership program designed to help underrepresented women of colour advance in their careers. She’s also a co-founder of CalmEdgedRebels, a coaching retreat for professionals looking to achieve their full potential.
As a sought-after speaker, podcaster and coach, Advita has shared her expertise on a range of topics, including internal communications, change management, inclusion, and confidence. Her insights are informed by her dedication to professional development which has led her to become a Chartered PR professional and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).
Advita has been recognised by numerous organisations for her work. In 2022, she was named on the Northern Asian Power list and received the Emerging Leader Award. And in 2023, she was recognised as one of the top global employee engagement and experience influencers by Inspiring Workplaces.
Recently she has co-authored a book, with Priya Bates, that will help leaders cultivate inclusive cultures. The book is set to be published in June 2023. With her impressive track record and passion for empowering others, Advita is a respected leader in the world of internal communications and employee experience.