Recently I came across a discussion of trust being destroyed when and if a 360 degree assessment programme was to be used in terms of seeking to make redundancies.

I coach leaders where 360 is used to give them a strong background of understanding themselves and how their behaviours impact upon others. Trust is essential to this process.

At one stage I was coaching in an organisation where there was little trust amongst some of the staff and it was very noticeable when all of the coaching session became a guessing game as to who had said what in the feedback (this was an anonymous 360 process.) The end result is that no-one gains from this. There is little personal reflection on behaviour and the whole process can become not just a waste of time but potentially dangerous in terms of collaboration amongst people.

I particularly like the approach of Trust taken by Stephen Covey

Our definition of TRUST is simple: It is both character (who you are) and competence (your strengths and the results you produce). Trust is the enabling power of leadership influence. It is not soft, slow, risky, or easy. It is a measurable, definable component of all leadership success. It can be both taught and learned.

The proof of the value of trust in business is compelling: “Organizations with high trust outperform organizations with low trust by nearly three times.” (Watson Wyatt 2002)’

In order for leaders to empower, to delegate, to enable creativity and innovation, then trust must be present in both parties – leaders and followers.

I particularly like what Charles Handy had to say about trust in his book ‘The Hungry Spirit’ 1997 and I am using this as my reference here:

Trust is not blind – it needs to grow over time. However it can be built up in large organisations where there is a network of smallish units in which trust can be developed, and Handy quotes the example of ABB here.

Trust needs boundaries– this is a realistic view and one I have come across frequently when discussing empowerment and delegation. With boundaries in place broad enough to allow people some freedom, and trust in existence, then control is less necessary.

Trust requires constant learning – change is everywhere and people need to be trusted to learn and develop. Trust requires constant unconditional support and forgiveness so that lessons can be learned from mistakes.

Trust needs bonding – trust needs to be maintained and requires a close consistency in an organisation between values, vision, mission and leadership behaviour. Any imposition of an inconsistent way of working from top down can potentially destroy trust.

Trust needs Touch – Despite the move to a more virtual world trust still needs some face to face contact in order to make the commitment real. This personal touch is much more about process than task.

Trust has to be earned – This is obvious but most difficult. Trust will not be offered until proven and can be withdrawn quickly. Values, expectations, common goals are all important components here of trust.