The ROI of Trust

In a seminar that I recently facilitated on Teamwork and Trust, we explored two very different models of organizing work. The first model is the traditional military structure of top-down command and control, standard operating procedures, and strict adherence to rank as indicators of the contribution one might make to the mission.

The second  is the Special Forces (SF) model, where one’s rank is the least important indicator of potential contribution. More than anything, the SF model is based on trust. Trust that every person on the team belongs on the team. Trust that every member of the team will support everyone else on the team. Trust that self-organized teams will select the team leader who is most qualified to assure success of the mission. Trust that everyone on the team is constantly renewing their skills and capabilities so they are always current with the latest methodology.

The SF model requires a significant investment in team members. The focus is on the realization that only highly motivated people can function at the extremely high level required. In his book, Trust Factor, Paul Zak, who is both neuroscientist and economist, documents that the single most important factor in developing trust in an organization is the investment the leadership is willing to make in its members.

Zak scientifically determined levels of trust in organizations by measuring oxytocin levels in the blood before, during, and after people were working in a trusting environment. After more than a decade of well-documented, scientifically validated, peer-reviewed studies, here is what he found:


Benefits of Trust at Work

74% less stress

106% more energy at work

50% higher productivity

13% fewer sick days

76% more engagement

29% more life satisfaction

40% less burnout

Read his book if you are looking for scientific validation. It confirms what many of us have hypothesized for decades: that authenticity, openness, appreciation, autonomy, recognition, meaningful work, and community are essential to any well-functioning organization. The interesting difference in Zak’s work is that the hypothesis is scientifically validated. In much the same way that brain scans confirmed Daniel Kahneman’s theory that all decisions are made at the emotional level before being logically rationalized, Zak’s work confirms the primary importance of trust as the source of long-term organizational success.

In an era of full employment, where it is more important than ever to identify, recruit, hire, and motivate highly competent, well-rounded team members, we now have scientific validation that the simplest way to confirm our interest in team members is to invest in their development. If you are interested in exploring how to do this for your team, read about our Leadership & Self-Discovery program at ExecuVision International.

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