5 Tips To Fix Your Broken Communication And Build Trust

The business world is bereft of trust, studies suggest, but elevated communication may be the solution. Here are five ways to increase engagement, spark innovation, and improve workplace relationships.

Leadership is facing a crisis—trust is at an all-time low in workplaces across this country. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer for 2013, 82% of people don’t trust business leaders to tell the truth, and Gallup continues to report 70% of employees are disengaged at work.

No longer can bosses announce initiatives expecting quick staff alignment, use organizational spin to effectively calm rumors, or assume one-way communication will fuel results.

The answer isn’t more communication for leaders, but a different kind—the kind that sparks trust and enables work cultures to be filled, once again, with passion, engagement, and innovation, so both organizations and the people who work in them can thrive.

There is no "s" at the end of "communication." When leaders think communication, many think about the methods by which information is shared rather than honest dialogue and understanding.

Elevated communication is well-intentioned, selfless, and other-focused. It enables—not inhibits—others. It breaks through the noise and builds trust, which makes employees more engaged, and encourages innovation, productivity, and great work.

Elevated communication includes everything from the art of asking the right questions to thoughtful transparency, and it’s grounded in authenticity, compassion, integrity, and intention. Here are five ways you can elevate your communication:

1. Get perspective on what matters to others.

Staying above the noise and building trust involves committing to and demonstrating that the relationship matters. That requires growing perspective beyond self-interest.

If you don’t know what matters to the people you lead, work with, or who are important to your business, what does that communicate about their value to you? Communication is elevated and trust grows in relationships that are mutually beneficial. After all, trust building is relationship building.

2. Increase dialogue with everyone involved.

Starting and maintaining a dialogue with people you work with builds trust. It involves a mindful exchange without preconceived agendas. Dialogue is a way of hearing and contributing to a collective wisdom without judgment, a need to win, or a desire to believe you have the answer. In some ways, it’s about thinking together and, in doing so, opening oneself to new possibilities and new voices.

3. Practice thoughtful transparency.

In the context of elevating communication and building trust, transparency isn’t knowing everything or telling everything. It’s creating an environment where people can trust they’ll have the pertinent information they need to do great work, make informed decisions, enter into genuine relationships, and operate with self-alignment and integrity. It’s grounded in doing what’s right without violating confidentiality or having self-serving intentions.

4. Contribute gratitude.

Sincere, specific, and personal appreciation that builds trust and elevates communication is the opposite of what happens in many work groups where robotic awards, canned programs, and generic messages are the norm.

Contributing gratitude starts with focused noticing—and a "thank you": "Thank you for taking on additional tasks during the hiring freeze"; "Thank you for giving up your weekend to finish the proposal"; "Thank you for an exceptional job dealing with that customer problem." It’s not a program—it’s genuine, heartfelt, and honest appreciation.

5. Align words and actions.

This elevating communication basic isn’t about "walking the talk" or "walking the walk," or any other organizational jargon. It’s about you. What do you say? What do you do? People’s perception of your word-action alignment, i.e. your behavioral integrity, influences how they see you—trustworthy or not trustworthy. What you say and what you do must be in alignment in order to elevate communication. You can’t stay above the noise and build trust without it.

[Image: Flickr user Eljay]

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