Building Trust

With an emphasis on technology | By: Kristen Haldeman | October 3, 2019

Susan Packard, the cofounder of HGTV, developed a three step process to what she entitled as “Emotional fitness,” or “EQ Fitness.” The notion of emotional intelligence began in the 1990s with Daniel Goleman’s books called Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ and Working with Emotional Intelligence. These pieces analyze the value of hiring based on transparency, connection, and certain emotional qualities to retain employees likely to succeed. 

The second step that Packard has in her three core steps to be emotionally fit is trust. She ensures that a company without trust is a company guaranteed to fail. The task of creating a culture of trust falls on the shoulders of the leaders. Packard distinguishes between the two different yet connected types of trust needed within a company. She says in her book Fully Human, “As a senior leader of any organization, you have two ‘trust’ jobs: instilling trust in you personally and instilling trust in the organization. If you’ve earned both types, employees will feel they’re on secure ground with a worthy guide. They will see that the company is run congruent with a value set that its leaders model consistently and that the rules applied to them individually are fair relative to how they’re applied to others.”

Instilling trust within a company is imperative to its well-being and success. According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, journalists Emma Seppälä  and Kim Cameron conclude that “more than $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy because of workplace stress, and 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job.”

Leaders can diminish these numbers by creating a culture of trust. 

Packard continues her explanation by listing four traits that enable a trust-based company culture. They include living a life of willingness, creating a space where people can physically meet together, interacting with people as people not instruments, and simply acting like the leader your position requires you to be (being balanced and consistent, being assertive, allowing debate). Finally, she lists transparency as the important trait for trust building. 

In the following conversation between Packard, Dr. Robert Kelly and Dr. Laurie Weingart, the Distinguished Service Professor of Management and interim provost of Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business respectively, they discuss the impact of technology has on their students and their ability to display emotional intelligence and ultimately trust building: 

“My concern is where technology holds us back from human connection,” I said. 

Dr. Weingart nodded. “You hit the nail on the head. Connecting with people is really about looking at them in the eye.: She asked me to define “trust.”

“I see it as the feeling of safety with someone or a group that allows you to be willing to take chances to take on risk.”

It turns out that’s pretty much in line with “the academic definition of ‘trust,’ which is the willingness to be vulnerable to another person, and to rely on them in the absence of monitoring them,” Weingart explained. “This is a really interesting piece of human connection, the willingness to make yourself vulnerable. The ways parents are controlling kids’ interactions today, children never have to be vulnerable. We put too much protection around them.”

Dr. Kelley took on a more pessimistic tone: “Because kids are growing up to tethered to their devices, they’re not able to read other people. When you show them a face with an emotion, they don’t know what to make of it, and as a result they don’t know how to respond....” (excerpt taken from Fully Human pages 168-169.)

Although we are not children in schools, every company has felt the impact of technology in their workplace. The face-to-face connection, as Packard noted in her make room for people to be physically present with one another, is a key contributor to building trust. It’s much easier to send the email correcting an employee’s work than it is to sit down and have a one-on-one conversation. Likewise, it is much easier, though perhaps less effective, to send the email congratulating an employee’s work well done. 

How do you see trust being built, or being diminished, in your company? How can Packard’s suggestions help to form a culture of trust?