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What is trust?

Is it loyalty?
Is it choosing to add something through greater innovation and creativity?
Is it being able to enjoy what you do, more?
Or is it being something more, giving more of yourself to something you believe in?

Trust is all about connection.

Human beings are hard wired to connect socially and in today’s workplace, a higher level of connection is leading to a change in the business culture becoming one that is adaptive to change, creative and more community based.

An example of just how powerful trust is in building collaboration, contribution and connection, was shared by Holly Delaney from Zappos at the Global Trust conference held in London last week. Zappos was set up as an online shoe shopping business and has been named on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list for the last six years. Having heard Holly share about the Zappos culture, which follows its ten core values, it is easy to see why Zappos has become the global phenomenon it has.

But any company that chooses to follow the same principles could also achieve a similar outcome in transforming their business culture because the values are all about retaining and developing the skill set of human connection. Social cognitive neuroscience tells us, we find the work we do worth doing and want to contribute more through the simple act of developing trust and connection.

Our brains work best when relaxed and in a non-threatened state i.e. when we trust those in our environment.

One of the key differences adopted by Zappos has been to move away from the traditional hierarchical model towards a holocracy, based on culture of trust.

Holly described the 3 key elements of a holocracy:

1.    Organisational Structure – where the focus is on organising the work rather than the people.
2.    Governance Process – where it is about working on the structure of the organisation and recognising that tensions drive change.
3.    Operations – where tactical meetings are held to get work done within the organisation.

Imagine you are an employee of Company Y and you have a great idea. In a traditional hierarchical set up it can be much harder for an individual voice to be heard let alone acted on.
At Zappos each person has the authority to have a voice. This provides a process that allows for suggestions on further improvements that could be made so the organisation can move from “what is” to “what could be.”

Everyone is accountable.
Everyone has autonomy because they have the individual authority to act or not.

All this fuels trust and has led to the formation of a business community at Zappos where the job has become far more than “just” a job.

A number of programs within the company continue to build on this foundation of trust including items such as the co-worker bonus. Each employee has $50 x12 to give to another co-worker of his or her choice over a given year, as a thank you or discretionary bonus. In the 7 years the program has been running there has been no misuse of the money because employees are trusted to do the right thing.

In their Wishez program website, employees can post anything that they really wish for. The company then grants the wishes, a bit like the “Make a Wish Foundation” to help out where there is a perceived need.

Relationships are all about trust and connection.
All business is based on relationships.

While much of what Zappos has achieved may seem quirky, it has been shown to work and who wouldn’t want to work for a company that makes you feel part of a community that knows who you are and cares. Working for Zappos probably doesn’t even feel like work.

And as Stephen MR Covey says,

“Trust is financial and a performance multiplier.”

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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