Mark Hinderliter, PhD

By Mark Hinderliter, PhD

Building Trust – The Key to Agility

Building Trust – The Key to Agility 150 150 Mark Hinderliter

High-trust cultures are necessary to have the agility to survive and thrive in a world of rapid change.

I have conducted hundreds of leadership workshops for all levels of management – on four continents.  In these workshops I always ask the group this question; “Is it an overstatement to say that trust is everything in leadership and life?”   Without exception, the answer is always NO, it is NOT an overstatement.  Leadership can be defined in many ways.  One way to define it is that is essentially a relationship with those we are leading and working with.   A relationship in which we communicate, educate, collaborate, inspire, provide, and receive feedback; ultimately to accomplish meaningful results for our organization.  In relationships, trust is the glue that holds them together whether they are personal or business relationships.

Imagine that you are spending a day in an organization with a high-trust culture.  You are wearing a Go-Pro on your head, recording what you see.  What behaviors are you observing in this high-trust culture?  What performance expectations would you have for this organization based on your observations?  How innovative do you expect this organization to be? Same exercise in an organization with a low-trust culture.  What behaviors are you observing?  What performance expectations would you have for this organization from these observations?  How innovative do you expect this organization will be?  One test is this question:  “Do people have each others’ back, or are they watching their back?  Pretty stark difference.

In Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, “The Speed of Trust,” he says “trust always effects two outcomes:  speed and cost.  When trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down.  When trust goes down, speed goes down and costs go up.” In Paul J. Zak’s January/February 2017 Harvard Business Review article titled “The Neuroscience of Trust,” he reports that his years of research revealed that” building a culture of trust is what makes a meaningful difference. Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies. They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance.”  With respect to our customers, a June 12th, 2018 article in CMO magazine makes the case that “customer trust is more vital to brand survival than it’s ever been.”

Think about what these authors are saying in the context of today’s business environment of radical change and tight budgets.  High trust cultures have tremendous advantages in developing the agility required to survive and thrive in today’s business environment.  In my own career, I’ve experienced the differences first-hand.  I have been a member of two organizations with high-trust cultures AND sustained high-levels of performance.  Conversely, I have been part of two low-trust cultures that struggled to perform.  One went out of business.

So, how do we build trust?  Consider the four C’s below.

Character.  As leaders, do we walk the talk?  Keep commitments?  Speak truth?  Own our mistakes?  Invite feedback?

Competency.  Competency impacts performance.  Performing at a high-level builds trust.  Continuing to build our skills and competencies are critical to personal and organizational growth.   The simple choice is to stay ahead or fall behind.

Connection.  Building relationships builds trust.  The more we know each other, the more we trust each other’s motives.  The more we understand each other’s strengths.  Each other’s needs.  The more we will cut each other some slack when we make a mistake.  Trusting relationships allows people the safety to bring forward ideas or concerns they otherwise wouldn’t.  As my wife says on a regular basis, “it’s all about the relationship.”  In high-trust, high-performing cultures, its how we do business.

Consistency.  Consistency with our customers builds their confidence in us.  Confidence is trust.  The opposite is true also.  Inconsistent performance erodes confidence and therefore trust.  Consistent performance enhances our brand.  Inconsistency erodes it.  Its the same for us as leaders.  If people know that we are consistent in treating people with respect, holding ourselves and  others accountable, and that we apply the same set of values to every situation, they have confidence in us.   Consistency builds our personal brand.  So does inconsistency.

Know this, your leadership matters. Keep learning, growing and developing your leaders!


Dr. Mark Hinderliter works with clients to develop inspiring leaders and great workplaces.  His experience as a Senior Vice President for a billion-dollar global enterprise along with a PhD in Organization and Management are a unique fusion of real-world experience and academic credentials.

Mark is a Veteran-owned Business Owner and the host of the podcast, “Creating Great Workplaces.”

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